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Departments of Interior, Commerce File Modified Prescriptions for Klamath Dams Relicensing
US Fish and Wildlife Service 1/30/07
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Commerce's NOAA Fisheries Service announced today the submission of their joint modified fishway prescriptions for the relicensing of PacifiCorp's dams and hydroelectric facilities on the Klamath River to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Like their March 2006 preliminary prescriptions, the modified prescriptions include fish passage, both upstream and downstream, for PacifiCorp's Iron Gate, Copco I and II and J.C. Boyle dams, but provide a lower cost alternative for down stream passage at Copco and a less prescriptive approach for tailrace barriers and spillway modification. The Departments of the Interior and Commerce did not adopt the long-term adaptive trap and haul alternative proposed by PacifiCorp. After conducting a full analysis, the Departments concluded that PacifiCorp's alternative was less protective than the Departments' joint proposal for volitional fish passage for these facilities.
PacifiCorp's FERC license for the four dams expired on March 1, 2006, and until a new 30-50 year license is issued it will be operating on annual extensions of the existing license. The existing license contains no provision for fish passage. Under the Federal Power Act, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce have the discretionary authority to require conditions to be included in new hydropower licenses. The Department of Interior has delegated the lead for PacifiCorp's FERC relicensing to Steve Thompson, Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California and Nevada Operations Office (CNO). Thompson is also the DOI lead for ongoing, broad-based settlement talks with PacifiCorp and many Klamath basin stakeholders.
In the project area, the fishway prescriptions would restore access to approximately 58 miles of habitat for chinook, steelhead, and lamprey, and improve connectivity for resident redband trout. This includes approximately 46 miles of habitat for the threatened coho salmon. Fish passage would also create the opportunity for the development and implementation of a reintroduction plan to return salmon, steelhead and lamprey to more than 300 miles of historic habitat above the project. The exclusion of these fish from the upper basin began with the completion of the first dam in 1918.
"We are committed to the conservation and protection of fishery resources in the Klamath River Basin," said Rod McInnis, NOAA Fisheries Service Southwest Regional Administrator. "These fish passage prescriptions are a major step toward restoring hundreds of miles of historic salmon and steelhead habitat above Iron Gate Dam."
In addition to the fishway prescriptions, DOI is also resubmitting conditions necessary for the protection of the agricultural diversions within the Keno Reach that serve the Klamath Irrigation Project managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). Another condition would provide for a reduction of the amount of water diverted out of four miles of mainstream river below J.C. Boyle Dam. Boyle's powerhouse and canal lie on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Department did not adopt alternatives provided by PacifiCorp for both conditions as they were found not to be adequately protective of Reclamation and BLM resources.
The modified prescriptions must be included in any license provided to PacifiCorp for these four dams. In March 2006, the Department filed preliminary conditions with FERC. The modified prescriptions filed today took into account the findings of fact issued by an Administrative Law Judge in September 2006; FERC's draft environmental impact statement , which also came out in September 2006; alternatives to our conditions proposed by PacifiCorp and the States of Oregon and California; and public comments. These are among the first hydropower conditions issued in the nation to have gone through the hearing and alternative procedures created by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
"These modified prescriptions are the basics necessary to address the project's impacts and provide important new conservation benefits for people and for the fish of the Klamath River," said Steve Thompson. "However, I continue to believe that a locally driven, basin wide approach holds the most promising hope for a comprehensive solution to the river's problems. I have a lot of faith that the people who live on this river --farmers, tribes and fishermen alike--will continue work together to make that happen."
Copies of the Departments' modified prescription, as well as other documents relating to the Klamath Hydroelectric Project are available on the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/yreka .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.
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