ignores salmon mandates, recommends keeping Klamath dams
by Jeff Barnard, 11/16/07
Ore. (AP) - Federal licensing authorities Friday recommended
keeping PacifiCorp's four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River,
siding with the utility and ignoring calls from fisheries agencies
to build fish ladders.
The final environmental impact statement from the staff of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chose trapping and hauling
fish around the dams rather than building expensive fish ladders
and reducing power production to help salmon.
The statement described that as the best economic choice while
allowing for evaluation of restoring fish to the upper Klamath
Basin for the first time in a century.
FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller acknowledged that fish ladders and
other improvements required by NOAA Fisheries and other federal
agencies are "generally" included in the final license, leading
salmon advocates to dismiss the latest evaluation as "legally
Meanwhile, Indian tribes hoping to restore salmon runs that once
were crucial to their cultures, Klamath Basin farmers who depend
on cheap power and water for irrigation, and California commercial
salmon fishermen suffering dramatic cutbacks in fishing seasons
from declining Klamath River salmon runs, met in Redding, Calif.
They are seeking a deal to remove the dams with state and federal
Participants said they were near an agreement that will be taken
to PacifiCorp. The utility has said it would be willing to remove
the dams if it doesn't hurt its customers. It also is willing to
spend $300 million on fish ladders and other required improvements
to keep the dams that produce power without greenhouse gases that
contribute to global warming.
Based in Portland, PacifiCorp is owned by MidAmerican Energy
Holdings Co., based in Des Moines, Iowa, and controlled by
billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The utility
serves 1.6 million customers in six western states.
It is seeking a new license to operate the four dams straddling
the Oregon-California border on the Klamath River for the next 30
to 50 years. The dams produce enough power for 70,000 households.
When removing all four dams was evaluated against building the
fish ladders and other measures required by NOAA Fisheries and
other federal agencies, removing the dams came out $7 million a
year cheaper - a net power production loss of $13.2 million a year
compared to $20.2 million.
Keeping the dams and trapping and hauling fish, along with
conditions recommended by FERC, would produce $2 million a year in
net power benefits. PacifiCorp's proposal for operating the dams,
which carries the least improvements for fish, would produce net
annual power benefits of $17 million.
Salmon advocates noted that removing all four dams produces the
best improvements in water quality and salmon restoration,
reducing obstacles that block 300 miles of spawning streams,
draining reservoirs that breed toxic algae that pollute the
Klamath River and eliminating conditions that promote fish
"The bottom line is they're saying removal is the best and
cheapest alternative," said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation
of Fishermen's Associations, a California commercial salmon
fishermen's group. The FERC recommendation "is not legally
feasible" without taking into account the fish ladders.
Craig Tucker, Klamath campaign director for the Karuk Tribe,
added: "FERC staff is pandering to PacifiCorp's bottom line, where
it is cheaper for everybody and avoids an environmental
catastrophe and the destruction of tribal cultures to simply
remove the dams."
"It's a schizophrenic document," said Jim McCarthy of Oregon Wild,
a Portland conservation group. "It's sort of FERC sticking its
head in the sand hoping somehow these mandatory conditions
disappear. They will not."
PacifiCorp spokeswoman Jan Mitchell said the company had not yet
seen the document.