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People for USA Grange comments on Klamath dam removal,


On Tuesday, January 22, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors (BOS) held their first public hearing on whether they should vote to allow removal of the four hydropower dams on the Klamath River, as suggested by the proposed Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement announced on January 15. PFUSA Grange strongly opposes removal of the Klamath River dams, so I attended last week's meeting on behalf of our members that reside in Siskiyou County and submitted comments to that effect.

The BOS must do all possible to stop the removal of the dams. They have the authority and the ability, through their coordinated land use planning, to exert their critical responsibilities to protect the local tax base, the value of private property, the economic stability of our towns, the well-being of our school system, county jurisdiction over groundwater, and in general, the well-being of the local community.

We support the County's positions, as previously communicated, acknowledging fish and river health are important. No community in Northern California has done more to lead in Coho recovery than Siskiyou County. We are the home to two pilot projects that the Department of Fish and Game believes will be a model for the state in working collaboratively and with a minimum of bureaucracy to promote Coho recovery. But there are reasonable alternatives to dam removal which would improve fish and river health but would not significantly impact the County of Siskiyou and its residents. Some of these alternatives have already been identified; still more may not have yet been considered. But it is imperative the consideration and selection process of whatever alternative is ultimately adopted MUST involve all those in the human dimension impacted by dam removal.

Among the many, significant public detriments of dam removal are the following:
* Lost production of 151 megawatts (mw) of abundant, clean, renewable, sustainable, greenhouse gas free electricity for about 70,000 customers. This power brings $750,000 in annual tax revenues to the county.
* Lost river-based tourism, business opportunities, tax revenue and aesthetic values if the Klamath River no longer flows 365 days a year.
* Loss of ~6 million king salmon yearlings annually from Iron Gate Fish Hatchery, which will be closed.
* Serious, unanswered, questions remain as to impact of unleashing the estimated 20 million cu. yds.
(http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/Poweranddamstoc/nodams/letters/fercMarcia Armstrng111806.htm) of fine sediment lodged behind these dams will have on downstream water quality.

* The Klamath River is severely infested with a myxozoan parasite Ceratomyxa Shasta (C. shasta), resulting in mortality rates in the infected out-migrating Coho smolts (an ESA listed species) as high as 50%, and out-migrating Chinook smolts as high as 45%. C. shasta infection results in mortality of returning adults as high as 20%. The researchers found C. shasta infection is a systemic problem in open reaches of the river, but not behind the dams. Dam removal would likely thus infect the entire main stem and significantly increase the loss of both smolts and returning adults from this controllable disease.

* Approximately 1,600 privately owned parcels could suffer depreciation in value due to loss of shorefront property, loss of water access, loss of lake views, loss of recreational opportunity, impacts of the deconstruction process;, and impacts of muck and mire until the area is rehabbed and re-vegetated. This would then adversely impact tax revenues received by the County.

Siskiyou County residents and other people downstream MUST NOT bear the brunt of reckless acts that will definitely hurt the human population just because they are purported, but not proved, to benefit fish! Totally apart from the environmental considerations, dam removal will, among other things, further harm our tax base, reduce property values, dramatically curtail world class white water rafting recreational opportunities, and, unless fully mitigated, negatively impact the quality of life in our community. Siskiyou County's general unemployment now stands at 11 percent, and it stands at 18.8 percent on the Klamath River corridor.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has called the price tag for Klamath River dam removal "indefensible"
(http://www.businessandmedia.org/specialreports/2007/mediamyth/BigDam/BigDam Problem.asp) and warned taking the dams out would leave the state vulnerable to "drought and blackout."

The dams started shutting off fish habitat almost 100 years ago, decades before fish production fell. No compelling data or studies demonstrate that dam removal is the best answer to assist in the recovery of fish. Information from PacifiCorp indicates that water quality would actually be decreased by dam removal. Scientists admit there is a distinct shortage of scientific analysis of the consequences of removing the hydropower dams along the Klamath River. Lacking that scientific knowledge, predictions of the full economic and environmental impacts would be pure guesswork.

A robust dam removal impact assessment MUST be completed and publicly disseminated, studied and analyzed BEFORE any decision is made to remove or decommission the dams, ensuring ALL THE IMPACTS to the interests of Siskiyou County and its residents are identified, understood, fully funded and satisfied prior to removal.

California suffers from serious, and increasing, shortages in both water and power; to take out four dams which help alleviate BOTH problems is beyond stupid. And for Siskiyou County to lose Siskiyou County will lose its current aesthetic enjoyment of the river, the economic potential of related business, tax revenues from businesses and valuable real estate, and control over County groundwater, forever, for a paltry $20 million is irresponsible, if not criminal!

At the first public hearing, BOS Chairman Bill Overman made it clear the Board will hold as many public meetings as are necessary to hear the input of every interested party. However, my concern is that no matter how many public hearings are held, the vast majority of county residents will not be able to attend due to work or other conflicts. So PFUSA developed and is distributing a petition you can print here (http://www.grange-pfusa.org), sign and submit to voice your opposition to dam removal. This is a serious issue; please take immediate action!

The next public hearing (and the only other one required by law) is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19th. This one will start at 1:30pm, at a location to be announced; the BOS are considering a larger venue to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd. Please watch the BOS's website
(http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/bos/) for further details. Please do not sit back and let someone else speak for you!

Katherine Lehman, President People for the USA! Grange

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