Thursday, September 13, 2012

After Condit Dam...and on the Klamath?

PacifiCorp's Condit Dam on Washington State's White Salmon River was breached on October 26, 2011. Removal of the dam was completed in August 2012. Here's what that stretch of the River looks like today:

Site of the former Condit Dam

Boaters are already navigating this stretch of the White Salmon River and restoration activities are underway. 

PacifiCorp's Condit Hydroelectric Project was removed by order of FERC - the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. PacifiCorp negotiated the removal order after fish ladders and other relicensing requirments rendered the aging hydroelectric project an annual money loser. 

This is exactly parallel to the situation on the Klamath. PacifiCorp's aging Klamath Hydroelectric Project could be relicensed. But relicensing requirements - including fish ladders and a change in "ramping rates" (turning the river on and off in order to generate electricity) - would render the Project an annual money loser.

The difference on the Klamath is that federal, state and tribal officials and PacifiCorp have conspired to allow PacifiCorp to walk away from the dams and powerhouses it owns in exchange for attaching a costly and controversial water deal - the KBRA - to the dam removal deal negotiated outside FERC. That's a sweetheart deal for the "one percent" if there ever was one!

One of the most controversial aspects of the KBRA Water Deal is that it seeks to "cap" the amount of water that is allowed to flow down the Klamath River. That would not be a problem if the capped amount was sufficient to support recovery of at-risk Coho and Chinook salmon. But that is not the case. KBRA Klamath River flows are calculated to prevent extinction but not sufficient for recovery. 

Of course KBRA promoters point to the "environmental water" which the KBRA seeks to "create" through voluntary sale and retirement of private water rights or through one of more new dams and reservoirs. It is this "new" water, they say, which will lead to salmon recovery. However, while promoters speak about this water as if it already existed, the track record nationally when water deals call for the creation of "environmental water" has not been good. As in other poorly negotiated environmental deals, we know of no instance where promised "environmental water"  has actually materialized as real (wet) water in a stream.