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Why should people pay for dam removal?

February 26, 2009, Herald and News letter to editor by Rick Sonerholm, Klamath Falls, OR

Recent headlines, “Dam removal would be paid in part by PacifiCorp Customers.”

Let me get this straight. All the “principals” in this matter have been at the table working out a deal, and we who weren’t in on it get to pay for it, either in higher rates, or taxes?

And what do we get in return? Salmon. OK. Salmon would be nice if they could survive the Klamath Basin. But in a time when one of the top three items on the national agenda is alternative energy sources, water power that can serve 75,000 homes with the infrastructure already in place sounds like a pretty good deal — $450 million (or $837 million) to get rid of that just sounds nonsensical.

If this does all go through and salmon “return to the Basin” guess what comes next. Someone will “discover” that the habitat isn’t healthy, and guess who will get to pay for that? I don’t want to. A 1896 study of Klamath Basin aquaculture by Barton Warren Evermann, S.E. Meek and A.B. Alexander, described Upper Klamath Lake this way: “Very shallow, vast amounts of decaying vegetation carried into it and the ever-increasing area of tule lands render it more shallow year by year. Water quality degradation in the Upper Klamath Lake watershed has led to large-scale fish kills related to algal bloom cycles in the lake. This has probably always been a problem, even prior to farming and ranching in the area. The source of the lake’s nutrients was volcanic soils.”

So we aren’t going to quickly undo what nature has taken thousands of years to do, nice as that would be.

In the meantime, if this goes through, I want something for my money. How about starting with not making me pay to fish for salmon?

Rick Sonerholm

Klamath Falls

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