Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-302, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us     Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
E-Newsletter                              May 29, 2009  

Senate Bill 76 was passed out of the House Committee on Environment and Water Thursday, May 28, 2009, on a split vote. The bill instructs the Oregon Public Utility Commission to implement a surcharge on more than 550,000 PacifiCorp ratepayers to collect $180 million over ten years to pay for the removal of four hydropower dams on the Klamath River. The bill also purports to absolve Oregon, California, PacifiCorp and the Department of Interior from any liability resulting from dam removal.

The passage of SB 76 will start the process that will result in the largest dam removal since World War II, and the largest planned dam removal project in the history of mankind. It represents the first domino to fall in the destruction of the hydroelectric project and the implementation of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

Incredible political pressure was exerted upon Oregon legislators to adopt SB 76, especially by governor Kulongoski and his staff. It appears that the dam destruction is an integral part of the Governorís remaining legacy. This pressure was applied in spite of a recent poll of Klamath County registered voters that indicated overwhelming opposition to dam removal, and a recent poll of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho registered voters that indicated nearly identical overwhelming opposition to the destruction of the hydroelectric dams on the Snake River.

On Thursday, Representative Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) and Representative Phil Barnhart (D-Central Lane and Linn Counties) finally agreed to an amendment and then voted for passage of the measure. We thank both Representatives for their diligent, well informed questions that helped identify the potential problems with the bill. Representative Smith offered an apology to the people of Klamath County for the potential unintended consequences of SB 76 after he cast his vote to move the bill to the House floor. We also thank Representative Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) and Representative Cliff Benz (R-Ontario) for their tireless efforts in opposing the bill.

The good news is that it appears that amendments adopted by the committee make SB 76 less onerous to PacifiCorp ratepayers and to Oregon taxpayers. An amendment was adopted that appears to cap Oregon PacifiCorp ratepayer contributions toward dam removal at $180 million regardless of where the costs may arise. This amendment seemingly provides that the costs of dam decommissioning, past and ongoing costs of potential relicensing, and the near certain costs of environmental liability will not be shifted to the ratepayers. A second amendment appears to exclude Oregon taxpayers from any and all liability that most certainly will arise from the dam destruction. Regardless of the outcome, our opposition to the bill as introduced resulted in a significantly less harmful product.

I remain concerned that the potential liability for violating the provisions of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Protection Act, etc. cannot legally be eliminated by this, or any other agreement. The liability issue cannot be simply talked out of existence. When PacifiCorp, the Department of Interior, Oregon, and California are specifically absolved of any liability responsibility the only remaining logical target will be the irrigators who are alleged to cause water quality degradation. My fear is that, ironically, the irrigators who promoted this bill, as well as those who opposed the bill, will be the recipients of the environmental law suits that will certainly arise from dam removal.

We want to thank all those who took time from their busy schedules to provide testimony on both sides of this divisive issue. All issues that involve public concern and public funding should always be debated and decided in an open public forum where every citizenís opinions can be heard and evaluated.

            Our readers may recall the information our office released on the poll that the legislative delegation from Klamath County commissioned on the sentiments surrounding the dam removal. The official poll results of this survey conducted by Target Market Strategies of Clackamas, Oregon, of 300 randomly selected Klamath voters regarding Klamath dam removal, closely mirrors a poll of 700 registered voters in three NW states (OR, WA and ID) by Northwest River Partners conducted by Davis, Hibbits and Migdhall Inc. in February 2009, regarding removing the lower Snake River Dams for salmon.

             Both polls reflect that a majority of those polled do not support the removal of the hydrodams.  In the Klamath poll, 65 percent are opposed to removing the four Klamath dams, while 71 percent of the Hibbittís poll say removing the lower Snake River Dams would be an extreme solution. These poll results closely resemble the phone calls and emails of concern from our constituents in District 28.The results and procedural summary of the Klamath River Dams poll are attached for your review.

             Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will!

Best regards,



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              Page Updated: Saturday May 30, 2009 01:59 AM  Pacific

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