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Stakeholders varied in water agreement
PacifiCorp spokesman: No stance on water agreement
by TY BEAVER, Herald and News 10/10/10
PacifiCorp didn’t sign the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, but the power company has a key role because of its four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
The company did sign the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, allowing the removal of the dams if federal studies determine it is a better option than relicensing.
Klamath County residents are impacted by PacifiCorp’s role because as ratepayers they will be paying for dam removal or relicensing.
Opponents of the KBRA, which aims to resolve water disputes in the Klamath River watershed, have differing view on PacifiCorp’s role.
One environmental group said stakeholders were too willing to make a deal with PacifiCorp.
Burden on ratepayers
Tom Mallams, an irrigator off the Klamath Reclamation Project, said the power company was pressured into dam removal by the federal government, but willingly put the burden of the removal on its ratepayers.
Proponents said it took time for PacifiCorp to seriously consider dam removal. The company has been a good partner though proponents say they aren’t surprised PacifiCorp held back from fully endorsing its participation until everything is finalized.
Art Sasse, spokesman for PacifiCorp, was adamant in saying the company has no position on the KBRA.
The company also has no position on the advisory measures going before voters in Klamath and Siskiyou counties asking whether their respective local governments should participate in the restoration agreement.
The company is supportive of the dam removal settlement, though, as it is the best and most economical outcome for ratepayers, as pointed out by the Oregon Public Utility Commission, Sasse said.
“Our role has been and always will be to protect our customers,” he said.
The company, however, will relicense the dams if removal doesn’t occur and is performing a variety of actions to mitigate impacts of the dams on the river, including effort to help fish and improve water quality.
Mallams said Pacifi-Corp’s statement that it looking out for ratepayers is false. The company, he said, is looking out for its shareholders and principal owner, Warren Buffet.
He believes federal officials pressured the company into dam removal by making relicensing financially difficult. But, he said, PacifiCorp stopped being a victim when it took a deal that made it immune to any long-term problems with dam removal.
“They have the sweetheart deal of the century as far as I’m concerned,” Mallams said.
Sean Stevens, spokesman for the environmental group Oregon Wild, said it was interesting that PacifiCorp strongly opposed dam removal before 2008, and then that year, advocated removal as the most affordable option.
“What ever allows them to get the best deal for their shareholders, they’re going to do that,” he said.
Removal less likely
Stevens said the KBRA makes dam removal less likely, as it ties the action to a document that requires extensive funding, something the federal government may not be willing to support, especially in today’s tough financial times.
Proponents said it made sense for PacifiCorp to be reluctant about dam removal, saying businesses are naturally conservative and serve to protect their interests.
Craig Tucker, Klamath campaign coordinator, said the company eventually realized the benefits of removal, both for it and its ratepayers.
“I don’t expect power companies to champion the environment, but they’re not an adversary,” he said.
Becky Hyde, an off-Project irrigator, said dam removal is only a part of the KBRA and she’s spent the majority of her time making sure the agreement allows irrigators to continue operating.
However, she said, PacifiCorp has been a good partner and is becoming more vocally supportive of dam removal as studies are conducted and completed.
Page Updated: Monday October 11, 2010 01:18 AM Pacific
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