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Report: Dam removal would create jobs
Secretary of the Interior talks about highlights of study to be released Thursday
By SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 9/20/11
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Monday revealed highlights of a report — including the creation of more than 5,000 jobs in the Klamath Basin over 15 years — that will influence his decision whether to remove four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River.
The report also found the actual cost of dam removal would be $290 million, Salazar said, $160 million less than the cost cap in the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
Salazar’s comments came from prepared remarks he was scheduled to read Monday morning at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Interior will release the full report, a draft environmental impact study conducted by federal agencies and private consultants tasked with informing Salazar’s determination on whether the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, which calls for dam removal, is in the public’s interest. A public comment period will follow.
If the agreement, which has faced vocal opposition locally, is implemented, starting in January 2020 Pacifi-Corp will remove four of its dams on the Klamath River at the Oregon-California border, launching a number of riparian habitat restoration projects.
Salazar praised the praised the agreement and the related Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement as “historic,” moving “us beyond the water wars of the early 2000s.” “There is real hope for a healthier Basin and a stronger economy, yet even (in the Basin) naysayers are working to derail the deal.”
“The tone of (Salazar’s) speech seems to me to dismiss concerns of a broad majority that maintain well-founded reservation regarding dam removal,” said state Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls.
Whitsett said he would reserve specific comments until he read the full draft environmental impact study, but said, “Dams and sediment can’t be removed for $290 million.”
He was particularly concerned about sedimentation build-up behind dams that could cause environmental problems once it’s released downstream. He also wants to see how researchers address high power rates and reliable water supply.
The KBRA aims to establish sustainable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, restore fish habitats, and help the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre parcel of private timberland known as the Mazama Tree Farm.
Gary Wright, president of the Klamath Water Users Association board of directors, doesn’t think the findings of the environmental studies would curb opposition to the agreements.
“The issues are deeper,” he said. “It involves (water rights) adjudication, so I’d say they’re pretty set in their ways as far as opposition goes.”
Study: Dam removal could create thousands of jobs
Economic impact studies show removing four dams on the Klamath River could create thousands of jobs in the agriculture, environmental and fishing industries in Oregon and California, said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Removing dams would eliminate 50 jobs, Salazar noted, and would reduce hydroelectric power generation, as well as diminish recreational activities in the area. It would also reduce property values for nearby landowners.
But reliable water supplies could allow the Basin agricultural industry to add between 70 and 695 jobs annually and would boost gross farm income, he said.
Improved fish habitat from removing dams would result in an improved fishing economy — hundreds of jobs in each coastal county in Oregon and California, Salazar said — and programs to restore habitats could add 4,600 jobs to the Basin over 15 years, including 1,400 in 2020, the year of dam removal.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., lauded the water agreement in a statement released Monday.
“Members of the Klamath Basin community have worked for years to forge an agreement that will help end disputes over water and provide a sustainable and stable foundation for future planning,” he said. “This has been no easy task, but (Salazar) today shared a preview of why this agreement is so important: it will help the economy in the Basin grow.”
Merkley’s office is writing implementation legislation for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Klamath Falls, who has not offered support for the agreements, was traveling Monday and was unavailable for comment.
Page Updated: Wednesday September 21, 2011 02:42 AM Pacific
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