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Hydroelectric plants are a good thing

By Dick Little 10/09/2006

The environmental movement is after us again on several fronts. This time they claim they are attempting to save salmon runs in the north. First they want to take out four hydroelectric dams they claim are halting salmon from getting up the Klamath River to spawn.

A Portland-based utility company, Pacific Corporation, is seeking a new 50-year operating license for Iron Gate, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and J.C. Boyle dams. The dams reportedly produce about 150 megawatts of power, enough to serve about 70,000 households.

Taking 150 megawatts out of a growing market in California would only increase rates. Imagine how much rates would increase if the electrical power supply to 70,000 homes was gone and it had to be made up from the state's shrinking number of power grids.

Indian tribes, some salmon fishing groups and conservation groups are pushing Pacific to remove the dams claiming they are harming salmon runs. An Associated Press report said last year's salmon run was so poor it almost shut down commercial fishing operation.

The Coastal Conservancy has turned over a series of studies to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) claiming removing the dams is "feasible" because "& only five percent of the 21 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the them would wash out, and could all be gone in one winter rainy season." (That's nice but what about the loss of electrical power, recreational activity and loss of jobs? None of that was addressed.)

Pacific offered to gather salmon coming upstream and truck them around the dams, and place them in lakes behind the structures. They claim any decision on the future of the hydroelectric dams, "will take years to develop before any removal strategy is undertaken."

An analyst for a group called "American Rivers" told federal officials the power company could lose nearly $29 million a year if fish ladders and other aids were ordered to be installed on the dams.

Steve Rothert said a group of studies submitted to federal authorities, "& isn't a comprehensive review. A full assessment of the environmental impacts of the dam-removal scenario & would likely take years of study by several federal and state agencies before any agreed-upon removal strategy could be developed."

The federal government has already ordered the company to install fish ladders at the dams, but Pacific is challenging the rules. An administrative law judge is expected to reply to the challenge in the near future.

The issue of salmon losses has been at the forefront of environmental challenges for hydroelectric dams for the past 24 years. Those in the movement have blamed hydroelectric dams for loss of salmon in the oceans while ignoring other areas of concern.

This movement includes the same groups that have been attempting to eliminate dams along the Columbia River that produce power for most of the Northwest.

Hydroelectric power is the cleanest and most efficient power we produce. It's 33 percent less expensive than gas-fired power operations which by the way, are being built in large numbers throughout California.

Thanks to the environmental movement and their opposition to hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants, we pay more for energy in California than almost any other state. I don't know about you, but I find it silly that my power bill would be a lot lower if we were allowed to build the dams necessary to produce it.

Experts say we do have a number of good dam sites available.

Many people who support the environmental movement are filthy rich. They can afford pay a high cost for their energy. Many of these people live along our coastline.

Prices are so high to build near the coast, the average Californian will never have an opportunity to live there. That's why they put up a lot of cash to halt oil drilling off the coast. They don't want to look out and see oil-drilling platforms.

The rich love environmental groups. The "save us from ourselves" people work hard for laws that control growth and shut down development. Since the rich own much of the housing along our coast they are literally manipulating the supply of housing and energy driving up the cost of both.

A free and open marketplace benefits everyone from the rich, to the working class, to the poor. Even environmentalists benefit when there's plenty of housing available and affordable energy to keep us comfortable.

Unfortunately, the movement overall has been less than honest on several fronts.

Almost all of the information they feed to us through the media is only half right and ignores data that does not fit their cause. That's "normal" for advocates, which is why we need a media that will investigate their claims and find other sources that may produce different answers.

For instance, their claims about the "depletion of the supply of salmon" can be traced to the increases in the orca, seal, and sea lion populations off the coast and the restoration of the bald eagle population.

Orcas, seals and sea lion populations were held down because fishermen could kill them if they tried to steal their catch.

Since the feds won't allow them to be killed anymore, their populations are growing rapidly. The restoration of the bald eagle has worked so well there's a movement to take them off the Endangered Species List. They also feast on spawning salmon.

There's a law of physics that must be applied to all environmental issues: "for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction."

Media people need to know this law cannot under any circumstances be repealed.


Dick Little is a Paradise resident who also contributes to a local Npr station


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