By Emily Wood & Associated Press, KDRV Oct 2, 2009
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - Many environmental groups, irrigators and American Indian tribes are speaking out against the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, or KHSA, for the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
PacifiCorp, the utility that owns the dams, agreed to terms of the draft. PacifiCorp was among 28 groups, including the states of California and Oregon, American Indian tribes, federal agencies, irrigators and conservation groups that released the KHSA Wednesday.
Pressure has been building for years on the Portland-based utility to remove the dams, as salmon runs have declined, farmers have faced water shutoffs, and water quality in the river has declined.
The KHSA is dependent on the larger Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, KBRA, which promises increased flows and water for irrigators while restoring critical salmon habitat.
As written, the KSHA gives the U.S. Secretary of the Interior until 2012 to determine if dam removal is in the public interest and if it will restore vital salmon runs on the Klamath River. If approved, it would lead to the largest dam removal project in U.S. history, expected to start sometime after 2020. J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1 and 2 and the Iron Gate dams would all be removed.
PacifiCorp, a unit of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is expected to sign the KHSA draft agreement by the end of the year.
The agreement sets a cap of $450 million for dam removal. Oregon has agreed to a surcharge of $180 million on Oregon customers of PacifiCorp. California must still approve bonds to cover the rest. Meanwhile, PacifiCorp has agreed to spend $500,000 a year for the next 10 years on restoration of coho salmon habitat in California tributaries of the Klamath River.
Those opposed to the KHSA argue it will actually delay removal by creating an even longer determination process for removing the dams.
Hoopa Tribe leaders say the KHSA puts business interests above tribal water rights.
The environmental group WaterWatch says that while it supports dam removal, it should not be linked to the KBRA.
"The two are tied together, so if the KBRA doesn't move forward, neither does the dam removal agreement... We think this linkage as something that could derail dam removal," WaterWatch Staff Attorney Bob Hunter said.
Many Klamath Basin farmers and irrigators are against both dam removal and the KBRA.
Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association President Tom Mallams says too many people are being left out of the negotiations.
"We've been characterized as not wanting to negotiate. We've been at the negotiating table since day one. We're still there. We're still willing to negotiate, but we keep getting left out," said Tom Mallams with the Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association.
The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors is also against dam removal. The board says it wants to see more studies done on the sediment behind the dams.
The board is also skeptical about how the California Legislature is going to pass the $250 million bond to help cover dam removal.