SALEM - A
House committee on Thursday, May 28, moved forward a bill that
sets in motion a plan to remove four Klamath River dams.
Senate Bill 76 authorizes the dams' owner, PacifiCorp, to raise
rates to acquire funds to pay for removing the structures.
Under the bill, the monthly rate for an average residential
customer is expected to increase $1.50 to $1.80.
The Oregon Public Utilities Commission must rule on the rate
increase before it is finalized.
Legislators also attempted through amendments to cap rate-payer
liability in the bill, but many believe that liability remains in
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ultimately will decide
if dam removal takes place. That decision is expected in 2013
after comprehensive studies provide a more detailed look at what
the project entails.
The biggest unknown at this point is the amount of toxicity in the
sediment that has built up behind the decades-old dams.
Many believe it might be safer to leave the dams - and, as such,
the sediment - in place.
The utility rate surcharge also could be used to build fish
ladders at the dams if Salazar determines the environmental risks
to remove the dams are too high.
The utility has been informed it must add fish ladders to
relicense the structures.
The House Environment and Water Committee moved SB76 to the floor
with a do-pass recommendation despite considerable opposition from
Klamath Basin residents and the legislative body's two Klamath
Falls representatives, Rep. Bill Garrard and Sen. Doug Whitsett,
Reps. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, also
opposed the bill in the committee vote.