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Reduced river flows to stick despite protest

  Agreement advocates say power generation shouldn’t be threatened
by TY BEAVER, Herald and News 1/13/11

   H&N Staff Reporter

     Those who worked with PacifiCorp on a landmark dam removal agreement say the company’s complaint about reduced river f lows in the Klamath River is unfounded and against the interests of Klamath Basin irrigators.

   The Portland-based utility filed notice with the federal government earlier this week it wasn’t properly notified of the f low reductions as required in the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Such reductions will impact operation of the company’s four hydroelectric dams and could slow their potential removal, company officials said.  Representatives of tribal and irrigation interests said flows were reduced as part of negotiations to provide water for fish and farmers in 2011 and that the change shouldn’t threaten power generation at the dams.

   “I think we’re being held hostage,” said Greg Addington, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association.

   The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversee river flows and their impact on various fish species, including coho salmon.

   T he agencies sent notice to PacifiCorp to cut flows from 1,300 cubic feet-per-second to 1,130 cubic-feet-per-second at Iron Gate Dam last week.   Kevin Moore, spokesman for the Bureau’s Klamath Basin office, said flows at the dam were at 1,150 cfs Tuesday. The reduced flows are to be maintained through February.

   The reduction is in contrast to what occurred last winter. A court order   required flows to be maintained at a high level for fish and contributed to Upper Klamath Lake’s surface elevation being low at the start of the irrigation season.

   Irma Lagomarsino, Northern California office supervisor for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said a new biological opinion issued last spring allows greater flexibility in determining flows and for water to be stored in Upper Klamath Lake for release in the spring to   benefit fish and farmers.

   PacifiCorp, along with federal and state officials, signed the KHSA in late 2009. That document, along with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, aims to resolve disputes over water in the Basin.

   Matt Baun, spokesman for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said the agencies and PacifiCorp are bound to the KHSA. The company’s complaint likely stems from the interim measures spelled out in   the document, he said.

   Art Sasse, PacifiCorp spokesman, said in an e-mail the company was under the expectation that the agencies would continue operating at past levels.

   “… the real point here is that (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) didn’t follow the KHSA protocol and discuss the ramifications of their reduction order, they just issued it with two days notice,” Sasse said. “There’s a process clearly outlined in the KHSA for ensuring we operate at historic levels and still make appropriate adjustments while balancing all concerns in the Basin, including our customers.”

   But Addington and Craig Tucker, Klamath campaign coordinator for the Karuk Tribe of California, said PacifiCorp’s complaint wasn’t needed.   Both said they and others worked hard to modify the flows so the lake would fill this winter.

   Addington added there will be flows above 1,300 cfs in the future as there’s additional spill from snowmelt and as reservoirs meet capacity and contested any claim that PacifiCorp is guaranteed any specific flow level in the river.
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