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‘We desperately need to be heard’
Copco Lake — In 2002, after a long history of family vacations at Copco Lake, Tom and Lee Rickard decided to sell their house in the Bay Area, re-investing the money to convert their vacation property at the Siskiyou County lake into their full-time home.
“We used to ask the kids if they wanted to go to Mexico or Copco for vacation, and every year they chose Copco,” Lee said. “We started coming up here in 1977. It was always their favorite, and ours, too. Our kids and grandkids still come every year.”
The Rickards, along with many other residents and landowners in the Copco Lake area, are among some local groups that have expressed strong objections to the idea of the proposed removal of the four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River. Copco residents gathered recently to discuss concerns that have arisen following the release of the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Klamath Facilities Removal Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Sept. 21.
According to the Rickards, they are facing a drastic loss on their investment in that property if the dams come out.
“We’re looking at losing half the value of our property. That’s our retirement,” Tom said.
As part of the DEIS, the Department of the Interior contracted an appraisal of the potential losses to Siskiyou County property values. The appraisal estimated a combined property value loss of $2.7 million.
Siskiyou County Assessor Mike Mallory said he feels that the entire appraisal process was “very deceptive.”
According to Mallory, one of the biggest flaws of the appraisal was the “failure to include the loss of value to structures and improvements to properties.”
Bart Kent is a Copco Lake landowner and retired real estate appraiser. He agrees with Mallory’s impression of the DOI’s appraisal.
“As an appraiser of 21 years, I see some gross oversights in the appraisal,” Kent said.
“Doing an appraisal of property values without including improvements to the property is like going to the doctor and getting treatment for a tumor without looking at the tumor.”
Kent also said that the appraisal’s effective date of April 2008 is a miscalculation because public knowledge of possible dam removal began affecting property values as early as 2006.
According to Kent, one Copco property went in and out of escrow twice in 2006 because two separate perspective buyers found out about the possibility of dam removal.
“Our biggest fear is that the dams will come out and our property values will be cut in half and we’ll get a couple thousand dollars in reimbursement,” Kent said.
According to Kent, though Copco landowners have a lot of concerns about dam removal, they would feel a lot better if they could at least be confident of fair reimbursement for their value losses.
Copco resident Herman Spannaus said he has concerns beyond the potential loss in property value. He feels that much of the science behind fish recovery estimates is flawed.
“Dams don’t kill fish. Fishermen kill fish,” Spannaus said.
Long-time Copco resident Bob Davis shares the concerns about the validity of the science behind dam removal.
“They tell us the Indians have to get in the water every day because of their religion. But we’re still waiting to see a single dead Indian,” said Davis, referring to claims that blue-green algae blooms in the reservoirs could be toxic to humans.
Another Copco resident, Gleda Southard, expressed concerns that the loss of tax revenue from PacifiCorp operations would result in more cuts to county services in the future.
County Assessor Mallory told the Daily News that it’s “safe to say the total tax on the hydro facilities is probably around $300,000 per year.”
Several landowners interviewed told the Daily News they feel they have no voice and no way to fight.
“We desperately need to be heard,” Kent said. “We’ve been ignored and cut out of a process that will deeply affect us. It’s the kind of thing that will keep you up at three in the morning.”
Page Updated: Wednesday October 05, 2011 01:56 AM Pacific
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