Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Testimony before the Oregon Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee
Hearing on SB 76, Tuesday, February 3, 2009
My name is Katherine Lehman. I live in Ashland, in Jackson County. I am the President of People for the USA! Grange, with members in both Oregon and California. PFUSA Grangers are “People united in applying Constitutional, free market principles in support of strong communities, vigorous economies, and a healthy environment.” I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to comment on SB 76; I hope you consider my comments as earnestly as they are submitted.
I hope each committee member has personally read the draft Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement released in January 2008, and the Agreement in Principle released late last year, as SB 76 proposes Oregonians fund the proposed removal of 4 Klamath River hydroelectric dams; said dam removal is inextricably linked to both documents. The hydroelectric project owner is PacifiCorp. PacifiCorp has been attempting relicensing since 2006. If pursued, this will be the largest dam removal project in the world, necessitating generation of replacement of the project’s 169 megawatts (mw) of abundant, clean (that is, greenhouse gas free, and carbon free), renewable, and sustainable electricity, serving about 70,000 customers. That is enough clean, GREEN POWER to serve the combined populations of Eugene and Springfield - GONE!
These agreements, while not yet binding, represent many serious infirmities, such as violations of existing Oregon and California state statutes, existing federal statutes, and even the U.S. Constitution. But too few care about violating the law anymore, so I am here today to speak for PacifiCorp’s ratepayers, and as a taxpayer, for it is we who will pay the astronomical cost of this dam removal boondoggle - costs not just for the replacement energy required, but mitigation for the expected environmental and property damage, loss of jobs, tax revenues, and other significant impacts I don’t have time here to fully address.
Part of this proposed dam removal would entail the complete destruction of the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery. The hatchery was established in 1963 at river mile 190 to mitigate the effects of the dams on anadramous species. Production goals for the hatchery include 4,920,000 Chinook salmon smolts, 1,080,000 Chinook salmon yearlings, 75,000 coho salmon yearlings, and 200,000 steelhead yearlings (Richey 2006). If we Oregonians really mean to increase populations in these species, killing off such great production is worse than moronic.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) final EIS, ~548,000 ratepayers will pay up to $4.5 billion for removal and disposal of 9000 acre feet of sediment from behind the four dams (there are reportedly some 20 million acre feet of sediment behind these four dams). A full ninety percent of these 548,000 PacifiCorp ratepayers reside in Oregon.
This 9000 acre feet is equivalent to 1.5 million dump truck loads of sediment. The estimated $4.5 billion cost does not include liability for release of the toxins found to be in that sediment. According to FERC, this $4.5 billion will cost nearly $8,000 per electric ratepayer. What that adjusted cost will finally be at the time of actual dam removal, scheduled for somewhere between the years 2020-2025, is anyone’s guess, but likely to be much higher.
FERC further estimates the cost of replacement power will add $35 million dollars PER YEAR to those same ratepayers. Worse, these costs do not include 1) The cost of decommissioning (unhooking and moving the generators); 2) The cost of environmental and fish passage regulations until the dams are removed; or, 3) The value of PacifiCorp’s un-depreciated assets (dam, equipment, etc.). These assets are undefined in the AIP and could be substantial.
As significant as these cost figures are, I’d like to bring them into much sharper focus against the background of our larger national economic emergency.
The current U.S. population is somewhat in excess of 305 million. Less than half that number files federal income taxes. Of the 140 million who do file, according to the IRS, roughly 1/3 has zero tax liability currently.
The U.S. Treasury states as of January 31, 2009, the public debt was $6,317,224,182,633.94 (that’s trillion, with a “T”), and the intragovernmental debt is $4,314,781,064,103.03, for a combined debt of ~$10.64 trillion dollars. If you divide the combined debt of $10.64 trillion by ~305 million….every man, woman, and child in the country would be on the hook for just under $35,000. And lest we forget, the national debt is growing an average of $3.3 billion each day.
While these numbers are jolting to those of us in Smallville, USA…those expected to pick up the tab…these figures are really only the tip of the U.S. debt iceberg.
According to the Federal Reserve, there are 8 major areas where Americans hold debt. According to the Fed’s “Flow of Funds Account,” published in late September, 2008, the overall outstanding U.S. debt is $49 trillion. Of that amount, “Debt Area #4 - State and Local Governments” accounts for $2.19 Trillion in debt! If you divide our total national indebtedness of $49 trillion by 140 million, each taxpayer’s share of this crushing debt is ~ $350,000 - if we paid it off right now and didn’t dig the nation and her taxpayers in any deeper!
My husband and I live on a modest income. We both started working in our mid-teens, and continue to work to this day. We are largely self-sufficient, growing much of our own food (and that for several others), and we utilize solar and other renewable energy sources in our home. We are not poor; but we would have to liquidate all our assets to pay our “fair share” of these expenses we are not, and never have been, consulted about. We do not have the years left to enable us to buy more land and rebuild our home. We could not afford to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves, let alone contribute to our community, as we now do. We would become a burden on society…….requiring more government indebtedness.
There are already approximately 150,000 Oregonians out of work. That number is expected to rise this year. Projections further out are scarce.
In July of 2008 - a mere seven months ago - the Oregonian newspaper reported mortgage defaults in the Portland and central Oregon areas were up 97% - far higher than at the peak of the last downturn in 2002. Southern Oregon mortgage defaults climbed 165% in the last two years. Statewide mortgage defaults are expected to continue much higher.
Inflation is reported in single digits, but those of us buying animal feed, fertilizers, and other farming and ranching supplies experienced inflation rates in the higher double digits last year, with no relief in sight.
Bankruptcies filed in Oregon increased 54% in the fourth quarter of 2008. Compounding the problem, there were 1,420 business bankruptcies in Oregon in 2008. Adding insult to injury, viable new businesses cannot get needed start-up capital from banks. Many of these banks took their share of the first Congressional bailout of $750 billion; a bailout which, incidentally, added ~ $5300 in debt to each of the 140 million federal taxpayers, on top of the $350,000 already owed by everyone in the country.
I’ve read the Oregon Legislature expects a budget shortfall of $1.4 billion to maintain the state’s current level of programs and services in the 2009-2010 biennium. The Governor and the Legislature, however, are proposing an increase that will cost $1.955 billion more than projected revenues, so they can increase these programs and services. Rounding up slightly for simplicity, and dividing $2 billion by 3.75 million Oregonians, we see an additional cost for every man, woman, and child in the state of ~ $535.
I am not an economist. I am someone who lives within my means. I have provided this graphic peek into our shared financial future not as a financial professional but as someone praying you will understand the perspective of most Americans, and most Oregonians, most especially in these desperately troubling economic times. Most Oregonians do not know the details of this ludicrous and extra-legal proposed dam removal, purported to be for the benefit of fish - fish that are not Gods of the natural world, as some would have us believe - just mere food for humans, animals, insects, and other fish.
Since 2003, federal taxpayers alone have paid over $500 billion for Klamath River “restoration” projects of one sort or another. We have received no identifiable, objective benefit, contradicting the “best science” used to demand the money we spent. Salmon is still so abundant throughout its complete range that I paid as little as $1.99/lb. for wild Chinook salmon on multiple trips to a local supermarket in 2008.
If we accept without argument or proof reports of historical escapements of Coho and Chinook Salmon in the region - estimates as high as 400,000 for fall run Chinook in the Klamath River (Rankel 1982); 100,000 spring run Chinook in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers (Moyle 2002; and an estimated 500,000 Coho throughout California - the total number of salmon escapements before the Klamath River dams could, possibly, maybe have been one million fish.
Let’s, for sake of argument, accept one million salmon as the total salmon escapement goal for the Klamath River, sans dams. Then, let’s accept FERC’s incomplete, and woefully inadequate, cost estimate for dam removal of $4.5 billion. Divide that $4.5 billion by ~1 million salmon, we see a price tag of ~$4,500 per fish - IF, AND WHEN, total escapement reaches one million. Unless that number is achieved the actual cost will be exponentially higher.
This is sheer madness! I, for one, vote to pay $1.99/lb., and I hope you do the same. Thank you for your time and consideration.
PLEASE DO NOT PASS SB 76 OUT OF COMMITTEE!
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