by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 3/18/11
Scientists say they’re on schedule to finish dam removal feasibility studies by September, which will start a six-month countdown to a determination that will decide whether four dams on the Klamath River should be removed.
The yearlong studies are part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, which requires Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to determine whether removal four PacifiCorp-owned dams on the Klamath River should be competed.
Dennis Lynch, program manager for the study and a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, said at a public information meeting Wednesday several dozen scientists at nine different agencies and private consulting firms are gathering data that will be part of technical reports on the dams.
“We’re not showing a lot of findings because we don’t have a lot of findings yet,” Lynch said to about 100 people who attended the meeting.
But, he said, as drafts are completed they’ll be available on the website KlamathRestoration.gov.
Lynch emphasized data gathering was not political, but rather scientific — an unbiased assessment of sediment chemistry, hydrology, and quantifiable impacts on local economies.
Scientists are, however, taking testimony about cultural impacts from six recognized tribes in the area, including the Klamath Tribes.
The group will give the Secretary of the Interior data covering several scenarios — status quo, full dam removal, and alternatives, such as removing only two dams — and Salazar will factor in the human variable to decide whether removing dams is in the public interest.
“High-quality science is what we’re after,” he said. “Our responsibility is to gather information so (Salazar) can make a determination.”
The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement is related to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, an effort to establish sustainable water supplies and affordable power rates for irrigators, help the Klamath Tribes acquire a 92,000-acre parcel of private timberland called the Mazama Tree Farm, and restore fish and wildlife habitats in the region.
The hydroelectric agreement funding — $18 million total — has been approved, but Congress has not yet authorized funding for the $1.5 billion restoration agreement.
Agreements polarize crowd
Meeting lasts four hours, uses outside moderator
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 3/18/11
The Mt. Mazama room at Oregon Institute of Technology was dotted with yellow and maroon Wednesday evening — colors of pro- and anti-Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement groups.
Children wore bright yellow T-shirts with bold black letters professing “KBRA = JOBS,” while maroon hats, emblazoned with a prohibition symbol over KBRA, adorned a row of heads. One man in head-to-toe blaze orange wore aviator sunglasses and held a sign that said, “Save our dams.”
The meeting was an informal update hosted by government officials working on dam removal feasibility studies through the Klamath Basin Hydroelectric Agreement.
Officials hired an outside facilitator, Pam Jones, to keep the crowd civil after previous meetings collapsed into arguments, off-topic questions, long tirades, and even racial slurs related to the politics surrounding the agreements.
After program manager Dennis Lynch gave a presentation about the data gathering progress, Jones limited each speaker to one question or comment within a few minutes.
Aside from a round of applause prompted by rancher Ken Schell saying the agreements should have gone to a countywide vote rather than being signed by irrigation boards and government officials, the crowd was tame.
However, scientists on the panel representing state and federal agencies answered few revealing questions about their research.
Most questions were phrased with a presumed answer, whether pro- or anti-dam removal or KBRA. Near the end of the four-hour meeting — originally scheduled for two hours — many comments made were related to the restoration agreement rather than the hydroelectric agreement.
The panel called on other officials in the crowd — Toby Freeman with Pacific Power and Kyle Gorman with Oregon Water Resources — to answer many questions.
Lynch ended the meeting assuring still-skeptical attendees that the data gathering process would be as transparent and scientific as possible.
Questions asked of panel at meeting
A panel of scientists on Wednesday fielded questions about their studies on dam removal. The studies will be used by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to determine whether four dams on the Klamath River should be removed to improve fish habitats. Among the questions:
Q: What about the Endangered Species Act?
Frank Goodson, a former fish and game biologist, asked whether scientists had considered the impact of allowing coho salmon, protected under the Endangered Species Act, up the Klamath River. Wouldn’t that mean more river flow requirements and water restrictions along the river, further hurting agriculture?
A: Dennis Lynch, program manager for the dam removal studies and a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, said scientists are considering that variable , and also weighing costs like fish screens on canals.
“People want to get fish un-endangered,” he said. One theory holds that removing dams and allowing salmon upstream will bolster populations and get coho salmon off the endangered list.
Larry Nicholson asked how scientists could assure the public their conclusions would be unbiased.
A: “I am a scientist, and I always have been,” Lynch said. “I want a good, solid technical process. … I’m taking it personally that we’re doing our jobs as scientists.”
Lynch said drafts of the findings would undergo peer reviews by scientists who are experts in their fields and not involved in compiling data for the reports.
The drafts, comments, response to comments, and final drafts will be available for public scrutiny on KlamathRestoration.gov.
Q: What about the ratepayers?
Several people asked about Pacific Power rate increases related to the dam removal.
A: Pacific Power customers in Oregon are currently paying a surcharge that will go toward removing four hydroelectric dams.
Last year, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission approved a cumulative 14.5 percent rate increase that started in January. The increase covers capital projects, investments in the electrical system such as power generation and transmission projects.
A 1.7 percent surcharge is separate, and, regardless of the secretarial determination, will be applied toward removing or relicensing the dams, said Toby Freeman, spokesman with Pacific Power. The amount that can be collected is capped at $184 million. In September, the utilities commission ruled the surcharge “fair, just and reasonable.”
Several people also were concerned about power stability if hydroelectric dams are removed.
A: The Klamath Hydroelectric Project on the Klamath River produces about 2 percent of Pacific Power’s portfolio. It produces on average 82 megawatts of electricity—enough to power 70,000 homes.
Toby Freeman of Pacific Power said the company would replace that electricity with other sources, like wind and natural gas. In 2009, Pacific Power increased rates to invest in two natural gas plants, three wind farms, and hydroelectric relicensing, according to the commission.