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Tribes protest state decision on Klamath dams
July 20, 2012 Sacramento Bee
KLAMATH, Calif. -- Two Northern California Native American tribes are protesting a decision by state officials to postpone the relicensing process for four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
The Hoopa and Resighini tribes are upset over Tuesday's unanimous vote by the State Water Resources Control Board to put the process on hold for another year, the Eureka Times-Standard ( http://bit.ly/NOA8D6) reported Friday.
The tribes want the dams to undergo the Clean Water Act certification process, so their owner, Portland-based utility PacifiCorp, will be forced to remove toxic algae and make it easier for fish to travel.
"The initial dam license was issued 50 years ago, at which time they had no environmental laws," said Hayley Hutt, a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council member. "To be licensed, they'd have to meet the new water quality laws."
PacifiCorp officials say it doesn't make sense to go through the costly relicensing process because the dams could be removed in 2020 under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
Federal lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow the U.S. Interior Department to determine if the dams should be taken down.
PacifiCorp officials are frustrated with the federal government's pace, but the company is already collecting money from energy customers to pay for dam removal activities, company spokesman Bob Gravely said. He added the company can't charge its customers to both upgrade the dams and remove them.
"We're not going to carry out relicensing steps that would add a bunch of additional costs," Gravely said. "Just because Congress hasn't passed legislation at this point is no reason to put the brakes in place."
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