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By David Smith, Siskiyou Daily News August 10, 2010
Yreka, Calif. — Appearing this year at the Environmental Law Conference in Yosemite will be a session titled “Klamath River: Litigation vs. Negotiation – Dam Removal and Klamath River Restoration,” a topic discussed at the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting Aug. 3 as County Counsel Thomas Guarino described his dissatisfaction with the expert panel compiled for the topic.

The Web site devoted to the conference describes the negotiations behind two agreements, one which provides for the possible removal of four dams along the Klamath River, and one which sets up a restoration plan for the entire Klamath Basin – the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, respectively.

“The negotiations were launched by a massive fish kill in 2002, when water was directed away from the river for irrigation purposes, resulting in approximately 50,000 adult salmon dying in the river. The agreements are historic, creating the basis for the largest dam removal project in history and bringing together the dam owner, farmers, [fishermen], Indian tribes, governments and environmentalists. The panel will discuss the unique importance of the river to native people, the challenge and opportunity of multi-party negotiations and the necessity of the public/private partnership in this transaction,” the site reads.

The session’s moderator is scheduled to be Kirk E. Miller, chief counsel for the California Resources Agency, with panelists John Bezdek of the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), Dean Brockbank of dam owner PacifiCorp, Troy Fletcher of the Yurok Tribe and Richard Roos-Collins of the Natural Heritage Institute.

Guarino drafted and sent a letter to the Executive Committee Environmental Law Section of the California State Bar, stating, “These speakers represent the proponents in favor of dam removal and give you an exceptionally one-sided panel that has continually presented a skewed view of these agreements and negotiations.”

The DOI, represented by Bezdek, is the agency from which the dam removal decision will come, as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be making the decision after the completion of numerous studies on the potential effects of dam removal.

PacifiCorp and the Yurok Tribe are both signatories to the KHSA.

According to the Natural Heritage Institute Web site, Roos-Collins is the institute’s director of legal services, and since 1991, “has represented public agencies and non-profit organizations in water and energy matters.” 

Upon hearing that Miller would be the moderator, some of the supervisors laughed, however, no discussion regarding their reaction ensued.

Guarino expresses a concern in his letter that the panel does not feature a representative from a group that did not agree to sign on to the agreements, stating, “In the past, panels have been balanced and have at least provided the attendees the opportunity to hear both sides of the issue.”

Guarino mentions in the letter that Siskiyou County has been a long-time participant in the negotiations, concluding his letter by stating, “It is respectfully requested that the members of the Environmental Law Section Executive Committee seriously consider balancing this panel so that a skewed view is not presented to the many practitioners who attend this conference.”
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