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Rafting companies say dam removal could hurt business

Local whitewater rafting companies worry that plans to remove dams from the Klamath River could put some of their business under water.

PacifiCorp, a utility company that owns four hydroelectric dams on the river, is in the middle of closed-door talks with federal energy officials and representatives from Oregon and California concerning the fate of the dams. Recent talks have suggested a willingness on PacifiCorp's part to remove them as part of an effort to restore fish and wildlife to the Klamath Basin.

Among the interested parties not involved in those talks, however, is Bart Baldwin, co-owner of Noah's Rafting and Fishing Trips in Ashland. The developments worry Baldwin, who says removing the J.C. Boyle Dam, northernmost of the PacifiCorp dams, would deal a huge blow to local rafting businesses. The dam generates much of the water current necessary to support high-class rapids to the south. Were they to be removed, the water level would rise, but the rapids would be effectively buried.

While noting he's not a dam supporter, Baldwin said, "The bottom line is, if the dams come out it would be a pretty big hit for us."

Twenty miles west of Klamath Falls, the dam sits at the mouth of the John Boyle Reservoir on the Upper Klamath River. From May through October, Noah's Rafting runs one- and two-day whitewater excursions below the reservoir's mouth. Baldwin called the area "unique."

"It's probably the best whitewater day trip for a family that you can take in this region," he said. "There really isn't much that you can compare it to."

Another local rafting company, Kokopelli River Guides, views the situation in a similar light. Though owner Matt Dopp does not think the dam removal project would be drastic enough to push rafting companies out of business, he said dam workers generate 1,500 cubic feet of water per second to bolster the river's current, which puts the stretch of river in a league of its own when it comes to whitewater rafting.

No firm deadline is in place to conclude the negotiations, which have been ongoing since early in the year.

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              Page Updated: Tuesday September 08, 2009 02:29 AM  Pacific

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