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marcia8.jpg.jpg (10768 bytes) Ridin' Point

- a weekly column published in the Siskiyou Daily News



Klamath Dam Removal Part 1 of 2: The Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIR/EIS) for Klamath dam removal vastly overstates potential benefits of dam removal and terribly understates the costs. It is alarming to think that the document will be used as the basis for a decision as to whether the Klamath dams will be removed.

Threatened Coho: The EIS/EIR misstates the findings of the expert scientific panel on coho. The panel pointed out that much of the scientific data necessary for analysis is missing. It stated that initial dam removal activities would kill 100% of coho populations in the Klamath River. Then any population increases would be “small” for at least a decade. After that, increases could be “moderate,” but only if the KBRA is “fully and effectively implemented.” The panel concluded that there was a “high uncertainty” that this kind of implementation would happen, leading to a “low likelihood” of even moderate population responses by coho from dam removal.

Steelhead Trout: The expert panel did state that steelhead populations “could” increase due to access to new spawning and rearing habitat. However, they had insufficient data to estimate populations.

Chinook Salmon: The Iron Gate Fish hatchery would be closed down eight years after dam removal, but the EIS/EIR fails to analyze impacts on the downstream and ocean fishery. The expert Chinook salmon panel stated that they expected a possible increase of just 10% in the average number of Chinook spawners, but the EIS/EIR mysteriously claims an 81.4% increase. The panel also stated that increases in spring Chinook were “even more remote” than for fall Chinook. Based upon the wildly overstated projections, the EIS/EIR outrageously projects increased harvest levels of about 50%.

Other Fish: The Resident Fish expert report forecasts an increase in redband trout, which is a major predator to juvenile salmon and steelhead. Because of increased sand/silt in the river bottom, the expert panel report states that Pacific lamprey habitat capacity could increase by 14%.The EIS/EIR seizes on this to assume that lamprey production will also increase by 14%. The study fails to fully analyze effects of competitive interactions among fish or to analyze impacts on 16 resident native fish.

Sediment: Information in the EIS/EIR indicates that 8,430,000 cubic yards or 3,540,600 tons of sediment could be released in the first year after dam removal. However, sediment deposition is not expected to exceed two feet. In their analysis, the coho/steelhead panel assumed only 200-300,000 tons and the Chinook panel 300-400,000 tons of sediment. The expert panel noted that the impacts of high sediment will last two years. Coho has a three year life span, so there are rotating “cohorts” or age-similar groups over a three year period, impacting two threatened coho cohorts. The EIS/EIR also estimated a low mortality of 36% adult and 52% juvenile steelhead from sediment release, with a high of 71% for adults and older juveniles. The EIS/EIR is deficient on analysis of the extent of mortality of freshwater mussels and filter feeders, which affects the ecosystem at large.

Water Quantity: The coho expert panel notes that there will be “potentially lower flows during the fall” caused by dam removal which “may reduce the ability of threatened coho to migrate through the mainstem in order to reach spawning areas in tributaries.”

Water Quality: The coho expert panel indicated that while dam removal may lower average daily temperatures, the “highest temperatures experienced by fish will increase.” (Salmon experience distress when temperatures exceed 20° C.)

As pointed out by local, John Menke Ph.D. ,the Klamath dams currently “bioremediate” the high nutrient content of the water as it passes though the reservoirs. The water slows and the river self-cleanses much of the algae produced in the volcanic phosphorus-rich Upper Basin. The dead cells drop to the bottom, which is why the sediment behind the dams has such a heavy organic component.

Nutrient loading is currently a substantial limiting factor to anadromous fish in the Klamath River. It stimulates algae growth that can deprive water of oxygen and it provides habitat for the worms that are hosts to fish-killing parasites that have fatally infected a major percentage of the juvenile fish leaving the system. The coho panel report states that all the models recognize that “total nutrient concentrations in the Klamath River downstream of Iron Gate Dam would increase.” It recognizes that there will be “long-term increases” in harmful algae and that this will have a “significant impact,” making problems worse. Both the coho and Chinook panels noted that dam removal could spread fish borne disease upstream.

The Chinook panel admits that reductions in nutrient loading and water temperatures would be dependent on major upstream actions, like converting 40% of Upper Basin irrigated farms (44,479 acres) to wetlands.



Klamath Dam Removal Part 2 of 2: Not only did the EIS/EIR wildly overstated benefits, it seriously understated negative impacts and costs to local communities.

Floods: Currently, the Klamath dams reduce high peak flood flows and delay them for about nine hours. The EIS/EIR seriously understates the increased risk of flood due to dam removal by modeling 100 year events using daily average flows rather than peak flows. It then presumes no substantial increase in flood risk because its projected average flows are comparable to current FEMA peak flows. In actuality, this means that post dam removal flood levels would be substantially higher than current flood levels. In addition, sediment deposit may raise the bed of the river as high as two additional feet. The EIS/EIR fails to assess the costs of removing the 30 some residences and structures in the floodplain, and does not assess the costs of the increased risk of inundation to bridges and other structures. Having eliminated the liability of PacifiCorp, the federal and State governments in the agreement, it defers this substantial costs analysis to the future Dam Removal Entity (DRE.)

Tributaries: The expert coho fish panel analysis is predicated upon the fact that in the tributaries, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement will accomplish: 13 miles of floodplain rehabilitation; 198 river miles of large woody debris placement; 153 river miles of cattle exclusion; 21,800 acres of acquisitions or conservation easements; improvement of 73 fish passage sites; planting of 346 riparian acres; securing of minimum instream flows for fish (including purchase of water rights); 1,330 miles of road decommissioning and treatment of 240 sediment sources. It also presumes the conversion of 40% of Upper Basin irrigated farms (44,479 acres) to wetlands. The EIS/EIR fails to analyze the impacts or costs of these actions.

Real Estate Evaluation: 2005 was the first year that property values started to be affected by rumors of dam removal, yet base year valuation for the study was 2008 – years after some of the damage had already been done. Structural and site improvements were specifically excluded from the impact analysis and the parcels to be valued were hand picked through the scope of work. Impacts assumed that the reservoirs had been fully restored in vegetation, which would in actuality take many years. This substantially understated impacts. As borne out be the recent Condit dam removal, homeowners could also be required to deepen their wells.

City of Yreka’s Water Supply: Engineers for the City of Yreka have determined that the cathodic intake process for the cities water supply will be negatively impacted. Also, plans to relocate supply pipes from below reservoir waters to suspension from a bridge create new security risks and invite increased maintenance issues.

County Infrastructure: Dam removal will require tons of heavy waste being transported to disposal sites. The roads and bridges in the area have not been designed to bear such weight. In addition, the EIS/EIR characterizes main roads, such as Copco as paved and in good condition, when 80% of the road is in very poor to failed condition. The EIS/EIR admits that at Copco 2 “[t]he existing access roads would require substantial upgrades to handle the hauling of the excavated concrete and provide access for a large, crawler-mounted crane.” The EIS/EIR acknowledges that “[c]onstruction equipment could damage existing roads” and that three bridges along the route “could be incapable of supporting and withstanding the weight of heavy deconstruction and hauling vehicles.” Yet the EIS/EIR defers further cost analysis of these very substantial and expensive impacts “until later.”

The EIS/EIR indicates that 1,241,500 cubic yards of earth and 126,000 cubic yards of concrete will be disposed on or near site on lands currently designated open space or conservation. 7,200 tons of metal and 4,500 tons of rebar will be disposed offsite –some of which will go to the Yreka or Klamath Falls landfill. The EIS/EIR is silent as to the environmental effects or impacts on landfill capacity.

Other Impacts: The EIS/EIR makes no effort to gage the loss of county tax revenues from facilities removal, property devaluation and farmland conversion nor does it assess impacts to the integrity of the fundamental tax base to support County services.

There is no analysis of impacts to exposed Shasta Indian cultural resources.

With visions of fat stockings and gifts from Uncle Santa, the various Settlement Agreement partners are now clamoring for passage of the Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act – H.R. 3398. This is one holiday where the grownups in Congress have to see through the fancy P.R. and staged Rockwell portrait of hands joined around the table to realize that this turkey is not only overcooked, it will cause some serious harm. Put a fork in this fiasco. It’s done.



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