Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eight Year delay in Klamath Dam removal a gift to PacifiCorp

Almost a year to the day after member of Klamath river tribes, fishermen and environmentalists rallied in front of PacifiCorp's corporate offices in Portland to demand removal of PacifiCorp's Klamath River dams, a draft agreeement to remove four of the dams and transfer a fifth dam - Keno Dam in Oregon - to The US Bureau of Reclamation has finally emerged from closed-door negotiations. Now the taxpayers and PacifiCorp's customers - targeted in the deal to pay the full cost of dam removal and dam transfer - have a chance to see what the deal entails.

In an interview yesterday on Oregon Public Broadcasting, PacifiCorp's president said that the eight year delay in dam removal (after all environmental, economic and engineering studies have been competed) is justified so that PacifiCorp can collect from its Oregon and Northern California customers the $180 million which is referred to as "Oregon's share" of the estimated decommissioning cost. This is the result of legislation approved in Oregon earlier this year. That legislation was opposed by the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, a business association, which fears that this deal will raise power rates including taking cheap Bonneville Power from them and giving it to the Klamath Basin's Irrigation Elite. That cheap power transfer is part of a separate Water Deal - the controversial and costly Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA).

Both the Dam Deal and the Water Deal require federal legislation because they skirt existing laws. In yesterday's interview, PacifCorp's president said it is the "intent of negotiating parties" that the two deals move forward together.

The Water Deal also requires California legislation in order to shield the Irrigation Elite from prohibitions on "take" of species which are listed as threatened or endangered under provisions of the California Endangered Species Act. This would allow irrigation districts in the federal Klamath Project to "take" Bald eagles by cutting off water to Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges. Scientific studies found that when these refuges do not receive the water they need Bald eagles starve because the waterfowl on which they depend move to wetlands in California's Central Valley. This leaves up to 1,000 wintering Bald eagles without an adequate food supply.

The Bald eagle has been removed from the federal endangered species list but is still listed under provision of California's ESA. The studies identifying water supply as critical to the health and survival of the largest population of Bald eagle in the lower 48 states were completed by the US Fish & Wildlife Services during the Clinton Administration but were suppressed during the Bush Administration.

The eight year delay in implementing dam removal is only necessary so that PacifiCorp's shareholders (including Warren Buffet) do not have to bear part of the cost of removing the dams and powerhouses which are, after all is said and done, the company's property. Opponents of the Dam Deal argue that PacifiCorp shareholders should bear part of the cost.

If this issue had been resolved through the standard FERC relicensing and relinquishment process, critics claim, PacifiCorp's shareholders would have to pay at least part of the dam removal cost. The FERC process has fixed time-lines and would, deal opponents argue, get the dams out sooner and at less cost to taxpayers as compared to the deal announced today.

Controversial legislation which requires cutting funding elsewhere to authorize the $500 million in new spending included in the Water Deal could get held up in Congress for years.

KlamBlog has yet to study the details of the Dam Deal announced yesterday; we will publish a detailed analysis soon. A copy of the draft Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and a summary are available on line.

Below are links to some of the extensive press coverage which release of the draft Klamath Dam Deal has generated. We find the Associated Press article particularly enlightening:

Bay Area Indy Media:

The Associated Press:

The Siskiyou Daily News:

Northcoast Journal:

NY Times:

The Oregonian:


Julie O'Rielly said...


Does anyone know if there exists, or if there are plans for a hiking trail the length of the lower Klamath River to the sea?
Do any sections of such a trail exist that are open to the public?

Walking such a trail would give humans a more personal and spiritual understanding of the river and the critters that make their homes along the Klamath River.

I personally would love to hike such a trail.

Thanks very much,
Julie O'Rielly

Felice Pace said...


I know of no such plans. There is the old Klamath River trail established and used by the Indigenous inhabitants of the Klamath as long as folks can remember. portions of this trail still exist; a few (e.g. Blue Nose in Karuk Territory) have been improved/maintained by the Forest Service.

I consider it unlikely that the old trail will be brought back. it would provide access to many village sites and the tribes would be concerned that this would lead to grave,robbing, etc.

The lower river is the Yurok Reservation (Weitchpec to the mouth). I doubt the Yurok Tribe would want to build or restore the old river trail for the reasons noted above.

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