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Removal of dam still not a sure thing

Published March 16, 2004

Studies, opinions still needed on Chiloquin Dam


President Bush earmarked $2.1 million in next year's budget for the removal of Chiloquin Dam, but before the dam can be removed several bureaucratic hurdles will need to be cleared.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is an arm of the Interior Department, will be handling studies involving endangered species and the environmental impact of removing the dam. The studies fall into the realm of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The act, established in 1969, provides a list of studies that need to be done before a federal project can move forward.

In late January, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the removal of the dam should happen next year, but NEPA studies can get complex and the process can extend for years, which could delay the removal, said Doug Tedrick, chief range conservationist for Indian Affairs. Although Tedrick said the agency's goal is to get them done this calendar year.

"The president's budget anticipated the successful completion of the NEPA process," he said.

And it anticipated that the result of that process would be the recommended removal of the dam.

This week, Tedrick will be in the Klamath Basin to talk to the groups involved with the possible removal of the dam.

He will meet Wednesday afternoon with a group of "collaborators," or stakeholders, that have been meeting since September 2002 and then with members of the Klamath Tribes Wednesday evening. The collaborator group includes city, county state and federal agencies, the Tribes, water users and others.

Chuck Korson, fish passage manager at Reclamation's Klamath Falls office, has been working with the collaborators, most of whom recommend that the dam be pulled out.

Although the money for removal is in the budget, Korson said it is not a done deal.

"It's not a forgone conclusion until the NEPA is done," he said.

He said there also needs to be a study done to figure how Modoc Point Irrigation district would replace the water it gets from a diversion spurred by the dam.

Don Gentry, a natural resource specialist for the Tribes, said Tedrick will update the Klamath Tribes on the NEPA process and answer questions about the removal process.

The Tribes have not taken an official position as to whether the dam should be removed or not.

Gentry said the Tribes want to make sure that what ever is done to Chiloquin Dam - be it complete removal or improvement of its fish ladder - is what is best for the restoration of the sucker fishery.

He said there still needs to be studies of how much restoration work would need to be done upstream if the dam is taken out.

"It's gets pretty complicated," Gentry said.

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