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Guarino letter: Stop neglecting us in dam negotiations
Siskiyou Daily News September 4, 2009
Siskiyou County, Calif. - Editor’s note: As the current version of the Safe Drinking Water and Water Supply Reliability Act of 2010 legislation, with a $250 million request written into it, and which involves the proposed removal of four dams on the Klamath River, appears to have been put on the fast track, as reported by Siskiyou County Counsel Tom Guarino to the Daily News Thursday, Guarino has faxed and overnighted an urgent request dated Sept. 2 for added subsections that address the potential impacts to the county as well as a request for mitigation regarding those impacts.
Guarino reiterated the belief on the part of the board of supervisors as well as many other county residents that Siskiyou County has been neglected in negotiations regarding dam removal.
The letter was sent to “The Honorable Anna Caballero, California State Assembly, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.” The full text of the letter follows.
“Dear Assembly Member Caballero:
“This letter is to address certain concerns that the County of Siskiyou has with the current version of the Safe Drinking Water and Water Supply Reliability Act of 2010 legislation that your office is authoring.
“As you are aware, this $250 million request is directly related to efforts by the State of Oregon, the State of California, and the Department of the Interior to remove certain hydroelectric facilities on the Klamath River, the majority of which are located in Siskiyou County. My clients are concerned that this effort, including the California funding sought in your bill, will not adequately address the impacts to the County of Siskiyou. My clients will be disappointed that no effort has been made by your office to contact or consult with them with respect to legislation having such a significant impact in the County of Siskiyou.
“As you may or may not know, the position of the County of Siskiyou has been that it does not believe that there is sufficient information or scientific study to support a determination at this time that removal of the dams is appropriate. This bill presupposes that dam removal is the appropriate solution. The County of Siskiyou has engaged in good faith negotiations because, quite simply, if the State of Oregon, the State of California, the United States and a large power company (PacifiCorp) determine that this is the way they are going to go with respect to these facilities, the County must face the reality that there is a real possibility that they may meet with success. If that is the case, it is the obligation of the Board of Supervisors of this County to demand adequate protections for the 45,000 citizens who reside in Siskiyou County.
“The position of the Board of Supervisors, as set forth in the enclosed correspondence, is very reasonable. If, as a matter of policy, the State of California wishes to support removal of these facilities, then at a minimum it should engage in a full, transparent environmental review of its intended course of action. This bill, in its current form, predetermines that the removal is appropriate. The County of Siskiyou seeks simply to have adequate funding authorized so that if dam removal is determined to be the appropriate alternative, that the harms to Siskiyou County are mitigated. These harms include loss of property values and property taxes, loss of recreational activities, loss of clean hydroelectric power, and increase in the costs of power for the ratepayers in the County, as well as environmental impacts and restoration mitigations for which adequate funding has yet to be identified. Of considerable concern is the fact that there is an unspecified entity to remove these facilities and neither the State of California nor the United States government are willing to accept responsibility for the liability of these activities. In fact, the intention is to relieve the current owners of the facilities of all liability or responsibility once it is determined they are to be removed without any identification of who is going to be responsible for those liabilities, including environmental liabilities and restoration responsibilities.
“Recently, both the CDC and the National Research Council (NRC) have called into question the viability of a substantial portion of the research that advocates for dam removal have been relying upon. Accordingly, the County of Siskiyou has taken the position that funding must be available to complete reliable, transparent and peer-reviewed studies consistent with President Obama's Statement on Scientific Integrity prior to reaching a decision for dam removal.
“These issues impact the current form of the legislation you are proposing in that the legislation proposed does not provide for the use of the funding to adequately address these concerns. My clients have on many occasions requested that the State of California provide funding so that these studies may be completed and that prior to any removal activities, all harms to be mitigated are fully funded. We are told that such funding must come from the State of California. The County has previously taken the position that it would be irresponsible to fund removal of these facilities without appropriating the other funding required to reasonably make this decision and compensate for those harms imposed upon the County. Perhaps you can understand the County's concerns given the current impact on counties from the recent actions of the Legislature and the Governor with respect to the budget. With over 18 percent unemployment and layoffs of County personnel, including law enforcement personnel, the County of Siskiyou cannot continue to withstand the seizure of its operational funding by the State of California and the cumulative impacts imposed by the changes in federal policy. The action of the State Legislature in seizing County funding has effectively deprived the County of the ability to protect Its citizens in this questionable endeavor.
“We have enclosed several of the letters we have sent to President Obama, Secretary Salazar, Senator Feinstein, and Secretary Chrisman regarding County concerns. My clients in the past have expressed reservations with respect to Secretary Chrisman's representations in this matter and continue to have concerns that if given discretion to use these funds the County's concerns will be adequately addressed. Should it be your desire to move forward with the funding of dam removal, we would ask that you include either additional funding to allow Siskiyou County to meaningfully participate in the environmental process to review the viability of dam removal, and funding for any anticipated harms identified by those studies, as well as funding to offset the impacts on Siskiyou County’s economy or require that the proposed funding first be used for such purposes. It is the position of the County that this could be accomplished with modification to the current proposed legislation. We would ask that you add the following subsections to Section 79766 of the proposed legislation:
“‘(e) From the $250 million funding there shall be provided to the County of Siskiyou sufficient funds to allow participation in the economic, social and environmental review process for the study of the proposed removal of the dams in an amount not to exceed $2.5 million.
“(f) From the $250 million in approved funding for the removal of the Klamath dams, priority for this funding will be given to mitigating those environmental, social and economic impacts to the County of Siskiyou identified in the review provided to the Secretary of the Interior for his determination with respect to removal of the dams.
“(g) That no funding authorized in this chapter may be utilized for removal of dams until such time as funding has been identified and allocated to mitigate all the economic, social and environmental impacts of the proposed dam removal and fund all restoration activities identified in the NEPA and CEQA processes for removal of the dams.
“(h) That the Secretary of Natural Resources shall cause to be undertaken an economic evaluation of the impacts to the property values of the properties surrounding the facilities and their attendant reservoirs and that no funding may be used for the removal of dams until such time as compensation to those landowners has been paid and the State has identified a mechanism to provide permanent replacement for payment in lieu of taxes lost as a result of the removal of the facilities.
“(i) As a priority replacement of the drinking water supply for the City of Yreka shall be funded and replacement completed before removal of any of the dams.’
“Please be advised that this matter will be before the Board of Supervisors on September 8, 2009, and it is anticipated at this time that they will adopt an additional formal response to the proposed legislation.
“Very truly yours,
“Office of Siskiyou County Counsel, Thomas P. Guarino, County Counsel.”
Copies of the letter with the above-mentioned enclosures were sent to Secretary Ken Salazar, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Wally Herger, Rep. Mike Thompson, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Tom McClintock, State Sen. Sam Aanestad, Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Secretary Mike Chrisman, and the boards of supervisors of Siskiyou, Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Modoc counties in California and Klamath County, Oregon.
4 hours ago
Unbelieveable; those dams have got to go. They are creating a toxic stew in the tailwaters besides being ancient and inefficient. Understand the threat to the county utilities but the way I see it now is the time to move up to current / future technology. With Obama's investment in the infrastructure of America time is wasting to get something in the works. Certainly a city water supply is more important than a couple of libraries in cities with plenty already. Stop whining and wasting time and resources and pour them into something feasable. Those dams are going to go; the operator has already agreed to pay for the removal and you are right that they are on a fast track so get yourself and the rest of the council moving and think about the long view for the county.
3 hours ago
Page Updated: Tuesday September 08, 2009 02:29 AM Pacific
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