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Dam removal bill remains stuck in committee

Merkley and Walden see some positive economic movement

By Ty Beaver, Herald and News May 12, 2009

Here are a few updates on lawmakers representing the Klamath Basin in Salem and Washington, D.C.:

State legislation that would allow PacifiCorp to charge Oregon customers about $1.50 a month each to pay for removal of four dams on the Klamath River still hasn’t passed out of committee.

The House Committee on Environment and Water had a public hearing on the bill last week, but chairman and state Rep. Ben Cannon, D -Portland, withheld it from the House floor because more information is needed regarding liability issues, said state Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls.

Dam removal is a key component of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which seeks to resolve water disputes among fishermen, farmers, tribes and conservationists.

The legislation, Senate Bill 76, would generate $180 million over 10 years. PacifiCorp has said that the increase would raise the average Oregon customer’s bill by about $1.50 a month. Agricultural power users would see about a 2 percent increase in their bills.

The $180 million, along with $20 million from PacifiCorp’s ratepayers in other states, would be combined with $250 million in voter-approved bonds from the state of California to help pay for dam removal.

If dam removal does not take place, money collected through rates to pay for it would be returned to ratepayers.

Garrard said he and others opposed to dam removal made a presentation to the committee and amendments were also suggested that would help address the question of liability in case dam removal costs more than planned.

Cannon said he is gathering information on the bill and meeting with committee members about it. There is strong political momentum behind the legislation but the chairman said he and the committee have to make sure it’s a fair deal for ratepayers.

“I am still considering the issue,” he said.

Federal lawmakers urge focus on economy

The nation’s jobless rate may have slowed according to the latest reports, but U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said there’s still much to be accomplished.

Merkley said in a press release that the nation is beginning to see some positive returns from the federal economic stimulus package but more needs to be done.

Walden’s spokesman, Andrew Whelan, said the congressman is particularly concerned about the high unemployment in Oregon, especially in his district.

“We’re second to Michigan in unemployment right now,” Whelan said.
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              Page Updated: Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:27 AM  Pacific

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