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Northwest Newspaper Hydropower Articles
Tribes, others hope salmon can return over
|Freeman wants to see hard scientific evidence salmon once spawned in the upper basin rather than relying on tribal histories -- an attitude that riles the tribes.|
According to a history compiled by the Oregon Department of Water Resources, overfishing, gold mining and irrigation were causing severe declines in salmon returns in the Klamath Basin by the early 1900s.
Salmon were permanently shut out of the upper basin in 1917 by construction of Copco No. 1, a 250-foot-tall concrete dam just south of the Oregon-California border. Five more followed and by the 1960s produced 151 megawatts.The dams spread along 64 miles of river, starting 190 miles from the Pacific at Iron Gate. Upstream is Copco No. 2, Copco No. 1, J.C. Boyle, Keno and Link River, which controls releases from Upper Klamath Lake in Klamath Falls.
PacifiCorp wants to abandon two small powerhouses on Link River. The cost of making them fish-friendly for endangered suckers is too great.Keno produces no power. PacifiCorp wants to give it to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for irrigation.
With 80 megawatts, J.C. Boyle is the big producer. Some fish passage proponents envision a scenario where the other dams are decommissioned, but J.C. Boyle remains with new ladders and screens.Copco No. 1 produces 20 megawatts and has no ladder.
Neither does Copco No. 2, with 27 megawatts. Iron Gate has no ladder and feeds a hatchery. It produces 18 megawatts and smooths peaking flows from upstream dams."
At this point, nobody is advocating for removal" of the dams, said Curtis Knight of California Trout.
"We're advocating for serious evaluation of all serious alternatives."
Knight concedes much of the habitat, particularly the Sprague River, is in poor condition, due to grazing, logging and irrigation, but he notes redband trout survive in it.
A lot of restoration has been done on the Wood and Williamson rivers, and attention is focusing on the Sprague to improve conditions for endangered suckers at the center of fish-farm battles.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has told PacifiCorp that its goals include salmon swimming to the upper basin, but the agency has not decided whether to mandate that, as it can under the Federal Power Act.
A leading reason would be to fulfill tribal trust responsibilities to the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok tribes, said John Engbring, Klamath supervisor for Fish and Wildlife.
The Hoopa and Yurok are suing the federal government over the 2002 loss of 35,000 chinook on the Klamath blamed on low flows and poor water quality.Meanwhile, the National Research Council has urged consideration of removing Iron Gate to help fish.
"There's a lot happening right now," said Engbring, though getting chinook back in the Sprague "would be quite a feat.
"NOAA Fisheries, which oversees federal salmon restoration efforts, has the same power.
"We certainly like to restore passage where we can," said Jim Lecky, assistant regional administrator. "That's the question, whether we can do it here."
A 2003 California Energy Commission report urged serious consideration of decommissioning the dams because losing their output would not significantly affect power supplies.
PacifiCorp counters that though the output is small, it is valuable because it can be turned on and off to meet sudden surges in demand.
|Freeman added that new information is emerging that the dams may improve water quality, settling out algae from Upper Klamath Lake.|
Knight and Barr hope a deal can still be negotiated to restore salmon to the upper basin.
"The Federal Power Act says that hydro projects have to balance," said Knight. "It's 300-plus miles of habitat involved in the coastal economy and tribes, and what is this all for? One hundred fifty megawatts of power."
Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer
April 11, 2004
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