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Parties Release Draft Agreement Setting Process To Remove Klamath Dams In 2020
 
Columbia Basin Bulletin
October 2, 2009 

PacificCorp, along with local, state, tribal and federal governments, this week released a draft agreement on a proposal to remove four dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California.

The draft "Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement," which will be available for public review, would establish a process through which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would investigate the costs and benefits of removing four dams on the Klamath River.

In coming weeks Klamath basin tribes, counties, conservation groups, fishing groups, and farming and ranching organizations will consider the pros and cons of the agreement and decide whether or not to support it. Already, several groups appear eager to support the draft proposal and move forward with resolving what many have thought was the country's most intractable water war.

The KHSA would be complemented by the implementation of a companion agreement, the "Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement." While the KHSA focuses on the fate of PacifiCorp's lower four Klamath River Dams, the KBRA aims at significantly increasing water flows for fish and providing greater reliability of irrigation water delivery. It hopes to undertake basin-scale habitat restoration, and make economic investments to bolster the economic viability of basin fishing and farming communities.

The KHSA provides a pathway that would lead to dam removal in 2020 following an analysis by the Interior Secretary to determine whether dam removal will benefit fisheries resources and is in the public interest. In addition, the safety of dam removal would be scrutinized through a public environmental review process consistent with all applicable state and federal environmental laws.

The KHSA is based on the "agreement in principle" reached between PacifiCorp, Oregon, California and the federal government in November, 2008. It provides for funding up to $200 million in dam removal costs by collecting a surcharge from PacifiCorp's Oregon and California customers over the next 10 years. Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature authorized the customer surcharge. If necessary, the state of California would provide up to $250 million more towards the cost of removal with the total project costs not to exceed $450 million.

The dams' owner, PacifiCorp, supports the approach in the agreement. Greg Abel, the utility's chairman and CEO, said the agreement is a "balanced and reasonable outcome that best protects the interests of our customers, while achieving the policy objectives of the states and federal government, as well as helping to peacefully resolve numerous conflicts in the Klamath basin."

The release of the proposed agreement marks a significant shift in attitude for many in the basin. Over the past 20 years the Klamath has been marked by bitter and acrimonious debate. The various communities had targeted one another with lawsuits and protests, often marked by acts of civil disobedience, in a failure to truly resolve issues pertaining to water rights, river flows and economic development.

"Once we decided to stop fighting and start talking, we realized the opportunities provided by collaboration and coalition building," said Jeff Mitchell, council member for the Klamath Tribes of Oregon. "We haven't seen salmon in our country for 90 years; this agreement represents our best chance of finally bringing the salmon home to the Upper Basin."

Troy Fletcher, negotiator and Yurok Tribal member, said, "This agreement represents a major step toward restoring the health of the Klamath River. We look forward to working with all tribal, agricultural, and fishing communities in the Klamath Basin on implementing these solutions."

Steve Rothert, California director for American Rivers, said, "Of course we'd like to see the dams removed tomorrow, but the reality is we must make sure dam removal is as safe as preliminary assessments suggest and that it can be done cost effectively. For a restoration action that is simply unprecedented in scale and scope, this is actually a reasonable timeline."

Once the parties sign a final agreement, the federal government will begin a formal public process that will provide additional opportunities for the general public to help inform the secretarial review process and the related environmental review.

"Though we have made great progress in recent months, our work is not yet done," Salazar said. "I have directed federal negotiators to immediately begin to finalize the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. True basin-wide restoration can only occur if we act to implement the restoration agreement and the hydroelectric settlement concurrently."

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said "we have reached another milestone in our efforts to bring certainty and stability to the water issues in the Klamath Basin and, at the same time, restore the Klamath River for agriculture and fish.

The agreement, he said, "represents a thoughtful approach that balances the needs of all who depend on a healthy river and wild salmon -- vital for social and economic livelihoods.

"Now, we all must turn our attention to the Klamath Basin River Restoration Agreement. I have hope that this water-sharing agreement will bring an end to decades-old conflicts and a beginning to a new, collective approach that will serve all who depend on the river and its resources."

The KHSA and numerous other related documents are available at http://www.edsheets.com/Klamathdocs.html

 
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              Page Updated: Saturday October 03, 2009 03:49 AM  Pacific


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