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Fish passage facilities around Copco 1 and three other PacifiCorp hydroelectric generating facilities below the federal Klamath Reclamation Project are sought by two federal agencies as a condition of renewing the power company licenses that expired this month.
What’s next
PacifiCorp, holder of the Klamath hydroelectric license, has a team of experts pouring through the massive documents filed last week with FERC. The company has until May 15 to respond.

Spokesman Dave Kvamme said the applicant can challenge any of the material facts used to justify proposed conditions. It can also offer alternatives to any conditions.

But Kvamme said the parallel track of settlement talks among parties offers an opportunity for resolving many of the conditions proposed last week. In past PacifiCorp license renewals, settlement talks rather than the formal FERC process led to resolution of issues.

Bottom line, Kvamme said, are conditions with practical solutions that can be implemented and that pass review by the California and Oregon public utility commissions as beneficial to PacifiCorp’s rate payers.

The Klamath project generates enough electricity in a year to light about 70,000 homes. That’s more than the number of customers – residential, commercial and agricultural – in the far Northern California part of PacifiCorp’s service area.

For the entire PacifiCorp system, Kvamme said, Klamath hydro is significant because “it is low-cost power. Those facilities were bought and paid for a long time ago.”


Klamath hydro players put cards on table

Tam Moore  Capital Press Staff Writer April 12, 2006

















Major players in the ongoing Klamath River saga last week weighed in for either forcing PacifiCorp to remove hydroelectric dams or build fish passage facilities to restore over 200 river miles of habitat blocked since 1918.

The deluge of official filings came March 27 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. PacifiCorp, owner of the 151-megawatt generating system, seeks a license renewal on most of the facilities. All except a small plant on Spring Creek in Northern California depend to a large extent on water stored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Klamath Project, which irrigates around 200,000 acres of cropland, pasture and federal wildlife refuges straddling the California-Oregon border about 175 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

“Whether through dam removals or implementation of our fishway prescriptions, successful reintroduction of anadromous fish into the historic habitats above Iron Gate Dam will substantially enhance the restoration of struggling Pacific salmon stocks,” NMFS regional administrator Rodney McInnis said in the March 27 filing with FERC.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provides primary staffing to the Klamath Fisheries Task Force created by a 1986 law, filed proposed conditions mirroring the NMFS paper. Three American Indian tribes – one from the upper basin, two in the lower basin – issued a press release supporting the federal conditions and continued talks among parties.

“To obtain resolution in this matter, we will need the political support of our state and federal representatives,” said Leaf Hillman of the mid-river Karuk Tribe. “Our aim is to keep the farmers farming and the fishermen fishing.”

A 1991 federal Klamath Fisheries Task Force report said underlying reasons for salmon and steelhead declines are:

• Construction and operation of the hydroelectric system dams;

• Stream diversions for irrigation and wildlife refuges; and

• “Adverse” land-use practices in the timbered watersheds.

While many of the recommendations FERC received are little more than requests, under federal law, NMFS and FWS can require fishery-related conditions in relicensing hydro projects. The two fishery agency filings are called “preliminary” and make reference to negotiations under way that could alter actual mandatory license conditions.

At least three closed-door “settlement” conferences are scheduled by parties in the next six weeks.

“I am convinced that a locally driven, basinwide approach holds significant hope of finding a comprehensive solution to the river’s problems,” Steve Thompson, regional FWS manager, said in a prepared statement.

The lowest PacifiCorp dams – Iron Gate, Copco 1 and Copco 2 – don’t have any fish-passage facilities. In a consultant’s paper prepared for the relicensing, the company estimated it would cost around $200 million to build fish ladders or construct a “trap and haul” system around those dams. On top of that, biologists studying salmon survival questioned temperature and water quality in the reservoirs. They said it may not be possible to sustain anadromous fish runs even if up-and-downstream passage is assured.

The J.C. Boyle Dam, built in 1958, has fish-passage facilities, but they don’t conform to current standards. At Keno Dam, a water regulating facility below Klamath Reclamation Project diversions and return flow sites, state and federal agencies want modification to passageways. PacifiCorp wants to relinquish responsibility by removing it from FERC jurisdiction. A 2005 federal project installed new fish ladders at the farthest upstream obstruction, Link River Dam, where PacifiCorp plans to decommission hydro facilities.

Another upstream dam in the Klamath system, near the town of Chiloquin on the Sprague River, is slated for removal after this irrigation season and is not part of the PacifiCorp system.

California’s Department of Fish and Game objects to removing Keno Dam from FERC jurisdiction, saying waters held behind the regulating dam “significantly degrade water quality” with effects seen 200 miles downstream.

The California filing puts completion of Iron Gate, the downstream dam, in 1962, as start of decline for Klamath spring-run chinook. The river was blocked with completion of Copco 1, upstream from Iron Gate, in 1918.

PacifiCorp pays for a large fish hatchery just below Iron Gate, which was built as part of the 1962 project to mitigate for loss of upstream habitat. The CDFG wants FERC to make continued operation of the hatchery a condition of license renewal. In a typical year about 20,000 adult chinook return to the hatchery.

California wants a set of minimum flows below Keno and the downstream dams, and it asks FERC to adopt flows below Iron Gate using a 2001 study by Utah State University hydrologist Thomas Hardy. The controversial Hardy flows have been under revision, and in late 2005 yet another draft of Hardy flows circulated among agencies.

California’s Siskiyou County, where most of the hydro project is located, told FERC it does not support dam removal.

Instead, it joins in asking conditions that improve water quality.

“We do not believe it is either prudent environmental or energy policy to eliminate low-cost, renewable electrical power generation,” says the response filed by attorneys for Siskiyou County.

The Yurok Tribe, which has a reservation near the mouth of the Klamath, took a contrary view to the whole process. It recommended that FERC flat deny the PacifiCorp license and order removal of all dams. As an alternate, the Yuroks propose a 10-year license with removal of dams complete by expiration of the shorter permit.

“The benefits of the project simply do not compare with the tremendous costs to the public, and for most of the impacts there are no available protection, mitigation or enhancements,” concludes the Yurok filing made by Howard McConnell, chairman of the tribal council.

The Quartz Valley Tribe, with ancestral lands in the Scott Valley, a tributary of the Klamath west of Yreka, Calif., also proposes removal of the PacifiCorp dams. “Decommissioning these four dams is the only reasonable remedy,” the tribe filing said.

- Friday, April 7, 2006

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is tmoore@capitalpress.com.




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