Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Almost 300 attend Klamath dams hearing
Yreka, Calif. — The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) held the second of five hearings for public input on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Klamath dam removal at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds on Thursday.
Approximately 275 people came from all over Northern California and Southern Oregon to express their views on the proposed removal of the four PacifiCorp dams. Some attendees held protest signs displaying slogans both for and against dam removal, stationing themselves at the entrance to the fairgrounds to welcome the hundreds of cars funneling into the parking lot.
The EIS document was released to the public on Sept. 21, and the hearings mark the halfway point for the 60-day period in which the public may submit comments on the document.
The first hour of the event was left open for the public to mingle with scientists and resource managers from state and federal agencies, many of which had informational displays and materials.
Dennis Lynch of the U.S. Geological Survey began the hearing with an introduction to the scientific and legal issues behind the proposal to remove the dams, followed by a brief overview of some of the possible negative and positive impacts to the river and communities if the dams come out.
“Now is the time for the secretary of the Interior to hear what you have to say about the five alternatives,” Lynch told the crowd, referring to the five different options presented by the DOI for dealing with the currently unlicensed dams.
Pam Jones, an independent professional facilitator, was on hand to guide the comment process and maintain order. She explained that each person would have exactly three minutes to express their verbal comments.
In all, 80 people offered verbal comments, some directly addressing the EIS document and some addressing concerns such as excessive environmental regulation in the state and nation and fear of alleged government efforts to take control of water and property.
There were a number of issues in which many speakers found common ground, such as the impact of dam removal on property values in Siskiyou County, especially around Copco Lake.
Bart Kent, a retired real estate appraiser and property owner on the lake, said the DOI’s appraisal of potential property value losses was deeply flawed, citing what he considers an inappropriate starting date for the appraisal and the failure to consider the loss of value to structural improvements on properties.
Dave Bitts, commercial fisherman and president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, said he believes removal of the dams will improve salmon fishing off the California coast and insisted that the decline of salmon in the Klamath River is not due to over-fishing. He also agreed that property value and tax revenue losses need to be addressed.
“I stand to gain from this,” Vitts said. “And I’d hate to think that it comes at a loss to others.”
Many people spoke about their distrust of the federal government, suspicions of biased science, concerns about the erosion of property rights, and federal incursions into the jurisdiction of states and counties.
“This bright idea has the potential to destroy our way of life and public safety,” Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said.
Several county supervisors spoke about their concerns about the EIS document, including Marcia Armstrong.
“The study fails to address the economic impact to the county,” Armstrong said, adding that she felt the process was “so biased that it reeks of corruption.”
Ron Reed and several other members of the Karuk tribe spoke in favor of dam removal, speaking about the cultural, spiritual and health benefits that salmon offer them.
“We took care of this basin for a very long time,” Reed told the crowd. “We haven’t been here for two or three or four generations. We’ve been here for thousands of years. We can do all of this together if we do it right.”
However, according to Betty Hall of the Shasta Nation, “salmon were never native to the Klamath River, not for centuries.”
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will consider public comments on the EIS as part of the Secretarial Determination process slated for completion by March 2012.
Anyone who did not submit comments at the public hearing can still do so in writing until Nov. 21. For more information about other public hearings or opportunities to submit public comments, go to www.KlamathRestoration.gov.
Page Updated: Tuesday October 25, 2011 01:40 AM Pacific
Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2011, All Rights Reserved