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Stakeholders react to agreement
by Ty Beaver and Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 11/14/08

   The need for state and federal legislation. The financial burden for PacifiCorp ratepayers. The loose ends remaining on the broader Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. 

   While state, federal and PacifiCorp officials lauded their nonbinding agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, stakeholders in the 250-mile Klamath River Basin talked about upcoming hurdles, unanswered questions and the plan’s future implications. 

   Oregon Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls 
   Whitsett said he had severe reservations about the dam removal agreement in principle signed by state, federal and PacifiCorp officials Thursday. 

   Evidence that dam removal is the best option appears to be based on the cost of removal versus the cost of re-licensing the dams and addressing water quality and other issues, he said. But that doesn’t mean that is what’s best for the river. 

   “I think that we really have no empirical science that removal is going to improve anything,” Whitsett said. 

   The state senator also was concerned that the agreement placed much of the financial burden for removal on PacifiCorp’s ratepayers. He listed other concerns including lack of a renewable energy source to replace the dams, and potential loss of property taxes and property values in Siskiyou County. 

   “That personally doesn’t give me the greatest confidence that they know what they’re doing,” he said.

   Steve Kandra, Klamath  Reclamation Project irrigator and Klamath Water Users Association board member 
   Kandra said the dam removal agreement is a milestone in achieving the greater goal of implementing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. It also opens the door to defining more of that agreement for irrigators in the Basin. 

   Calling them “hand and glove agreements,” the on-Project irrigator said he now must work with PacifiCorp to determine future irrigation power rates. 

   Also, if the dams are removed, the need for power could open up the possibility for on-Project irrigators to pursue power projects of their own to offset costs.

   Troy Fletcher, policy analyst for Yurok Tribe

   Fletcher called the agreement a significant milestone. 

   “The next steps are working with people who are committed to resolving Basin issues,” Fletcher said. “We need to work to make the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement a reality — the two are linked.” 

   Glenn Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s  Association 

   Spain hailed the agreement as a framework for removing the dams, but said considerable hurdles remain. 

   “There is, for the first time, a clear presumptive path to make it happen,” he said of removing the dams. “There are a lot of financial details that need to be pored over.” 

   Among those details, he said, is getting Congressional approval, passage of a $250-million bond in California, legislation in Oregon to create a dam decommissioning fund and providing compensation for land owners and lost tax revenues in Siskiyou County, where three of the four dams are located. 

   “There’s going to be some hard slogging, but we have a framework,” Spain said. “That’s the hardest part of any journey, knowing where you’re going to go.” 

   Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown 

   Brown said he heard about the nonbinding dam removal agreement during a trip to Washington, D.C., several weeks ago. He is glad the agreement calls for studies determining the feasibility of dam removal and said those studies could provide important information. 

   Nevertheless, the commissioner said he is still philosophically opposed to dam removal.

Jeff Mitchell, Klamath Tribes council member 

   Mitchell said the biggest question is how the dam removal agreement would be blended with the broader Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. 

   The final arrangement needs to be seamless, and there’s the potential for problems regarding the required studies and the need for state and federal legislation. 

   But Mitchell said he is optimistic about the future. 

   “This agreement has really what we’ve been looking for 90 years,” he said.

   Steve Rothert, spokesman for American Rivers, a conservation group

   Rothert called the projected $450 million cost for removing the dams misleading, adding that he has coordinated scientific research on removal.

   Estimates by the California Coastal Commission ranged from $75 million to $200 million, with current best estimate of $125 million. He believes the $450 million includes costs for worst-case scenarios.

   Rothert also believes the proposed surcharge to Oregon PacifiCorp customers is misleading. 

   “The reality is this deal saves PacifiCorp customers money,” he said. 

   If the dams are not removed, Rothert said PacifiCorp faces spending up to $500 million to meet Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state requirements to build fish ladders, improve water quality and do other improvements. Those costs, he said, would be passed along to customers.
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