Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water Quality hearings for Klamath Dams kick of at Klamath and Eureka

Inability to comply with water quality standards may prove to be the Achilles Heal which sinks PacifiCorp’s drive to relicense four of its five Klamath River Dams and turn a fifth dam over to the Bureau of Reclamation or Upper Basin Irrigation Interests. Some Klamath commentators – including KlamBlog – believe PacifiCorp is not really interested in relicensing the dams but is projecting a pro-relicensing stance so that it can get the taxpayers to pay for decommissioning its Klamath Hydroelectric Project. If the dams and powerhouses can not be relicensed because they can’t meet water quality standards – or because meeting those standards would be too expensive – PacifiCorp might be on the hook for the cost of removing them.

Yesterday – October 20th 2008 – the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) kicked off “scoping meetings” which eventually will be held across the Klamath River Basin and in Sacramento. The process will lead to a decision by the State Board about whether the Klamath River dams can comply with the Clean Water Act. The state must certify compliance with water quality standards enshrined in the North Coast Basin Plan before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can issue a license for PacifiCorp to operate the hydroelectric dams. If the State of California decides the dams can not be operated in a way that protects water quality, no license can be issued and PacifiCorp could be financially responsible for removing its Klamath River dams and powerhouses.

The “scoping meetings” kicked off yesterday in Eureka and near the mouth of the Klamath River in Klamath. About 100 people attended the Klamath Meeting hosted by the Yurok Tribe which provided a meal for all who attended featuring salmon and traditional fry bread.

Two different sets of “talking points” were available at the meeting. While you could not tell who had prepared the talking points (there was no heading or letterhead on the copies distributed) one set was said to come from the Karuk Tribe’s Natural Resources Department. KlamBlog was able to confirm that the other “talking points” came from Klamath Riverkeeper’s web site.

But most of those who spoke in Klamath did not cover technical issues but rather talked from the heart about what they remembered of the River from former days or were told by elders. Several tribal members spoke about getting rashes when they come in contact with Klamath River water and about the fear they feel when their children or other people’s children come in contact with the water.

Here are a few highlights of the comments:

  • Bob McConnell pointed out that water quality is an “environmental justice” issue for the Yurok People. Bob is a tribal member and employee working to identify and protect archeological sites.

  • David O’Neil talked about getting a rash just from collecting willow roots along the margins of the River. Willow roots are used in traditional Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa basketry.

  • Ray Mattz spoke about the salmon wars and the lawsuit that won Yurok’s the right to fish for salmon in traditional ways. He said that he lost a dog which died because it drank water from the toxic river and pointed out that he too gets rashes when he works on the River.

  • Peggy O’Neil called attention to all the money PacifiCorp continues to pull out of this Basin while the environmental and economic costs are exported downriver.

  • Jim McQuillen talked about the Brush Dance site near the mouth of the river and how he partook in a sweat with some of the younger boys there recently. After sweating, the boys and he wanted to swim in the river to cool off as this had been done for untold ages. But they decided against swimming due to the epidemic of rashes and fear of toxic algae poisoning.

  • Dave Gensaw delivered a powerful historical and cultural perspective. He wrapped up an emotional talk by calling for the bureaucrats to “Let the River run free!”

Members of the State Water Quality Board did not attend the Klamath meeting;

Below are the dates and locations of the rest of the scoping meetings. Comments can also be provided until November 17th at 4 PM by e-mail, USPS mail or fax to:

Attention: Jennifer Watts

State Water Resources Control Board

Email: jwatts@waterboards.ca.gov

Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

Phone: (916) 341-5397 Fax: (916) 341-5400

A copy of the Notice of Preparation of the Environmental Impact Report (Scoping Notice) for the certification is available on line.

Upcoming Scoping Meetings:

October 21, 2008:

  • noon – 2 p.m: Orleans Public Karuk Community Center, 39051 State Hwy. 96, Orleans, CA 95556, (530) 627-3446 x 0

  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m: Yreka High School Student Union, 400 Preece Way, Yreka, CA 96097, (530) 842-2521

October 29, 2008

  • 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Sacramento Public California EPA Bldg., Byron Sher Auditorium, 1001 “I” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

November 3, 2008

  • 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Sacramento Agency California EPA Bldg., Sierra Hearing Room, 1001 “I” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

The Sacramento meetings will be webcast and can be accessed via a toll free call in number. Here’s a portion of the Notice which tells how to go about tuning in remotely to the Sacramento meetings and where to go if you have concerns or need additional information:

The Sacramento meetings will be webcast live on the California Environmental Protection Agency website, at www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/. Additionally, a toll-free call-in number, 877-213-1782, will be available for telephonic participation. Please contact Debra Cole of ENTRIX, at (925) 935-9920 or dcole@entrix.com, to receive the telephonic participation code. The Sacramento meetings will be documented with audio and visual recording. The Eureka, Yreka, Orleans, and Klamath meetings will be documented by transcript. It is possible that one or more members of the State Water Board will attend one or more of these meetings. In case a quorum of State Water Board members attend, this notice serves as notice under Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, Government Code, section 11200 et seq. No decisions will be made at the CEQA scoping meetings.

If you have additional questions concerning the meetings, the agenda, or would like to make a request for reasonable accommodation for disability please contact: Larry Wise of ENTRIX Inc. at: wise@entrix.com or (925) 935-9920.

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