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Enviro groups cry foul
http://www.siskiyoudaily.com/articles/2004/03/04/news/news3.txt

 

Updated: Thursday, March 4, 2004 11:10 PM PST


 

 
 
 
 

"Although the relicensing process provided stakeholders with a form to voice their concerns as the proposed license was developed, many charge that the final product ignored their input, the input of the scientific community, and most importantly, the needs of Klamath River salmon," said Craig Tucker with Friends of the River in a March 1 press release.

Stakeholders involved in the process include fishermen, irrigators, environmentalists and affected tribes. Tucker said he was speaking on behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, Klamath River Intertribal Fish and Water Commission, Karuk Tribe, Yurok Tribe, and Friends of the River.

On Feb. 27, PacifiCorp, also known as Pacific Power in the Pacific Northwest, submitted its application to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) for the relicensing of its power generation facilities and dam complex on the Klamath River. PacifiCorp's 50-year license to operate expires in two years and must be renewed.

Under the Federal Power Act, FERC determines whether a hydropower dam will receive a license to operate and specific operational conditions. These 30 to 50-year licenses determine both how much water is diverted from a river to generate power and how much remains to support fish, wildlife, and downstream economic values.

The filing of the license opens a 60-day period for comments and additional study requests with FERC. The target date for final license approval is March 2006.

"The application recommends to FERC operating conditions that best balance the project's electric generation and irrigation values with environmental protection and recreational and cultural resources," said PacifiCorp Hydro Licensing Manager Toby Freeman.

Other stakeholder groups don't agree.

"The Klamath River used to be the third greatest salmon producing river in the lower 49 states," Tucker said. "Today, two salmon species are extirpated from the river, one is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and two others have been reduced to 10 percent of historic numbers."

Tucker said that controversy over Klamath River dams was further ignited in 2002 when 33,000 fish died in the largest fish kill in U.S. history.

"Since then, reports by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and California Fish and Game have suggested that poor water quality contributed to the disaster."

Citing studies from the U.S. Geological Survey and river advocacy groups, Tucker said there are economic and environmental benefits to river restoration and increasing salmon populations.

"Many groups involved in the relicensing process cite effective fish passage mechanisms, such as fish ladders or dam removal, as potential strategies to achieve restoration," he said. "Despite voicing concerns over the past two years at relicensing meetings with PacifiCorp, tribes, fishermen's groups and environmentalists feel ignored by the final license application, which did not propose to study these options."

"Throughout the FERC process we have been arguing that for a realistic plan to bring salmon home to the upper basin to ensure the recovery of salmon and the delisting of threatened and endangered fish we must provide access to spawning habitat," said Merv George, director of the Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish and Water Commission. "Despite our good faith involvement in the relicensing process, we were ignored in the end. The company should be held accountable and uphold its responsibilities."

Tucker claims that recommendations of the scientific community were largely ignored as well.

"Recent scientific reports from the National Academy of Science and the California Coho Recovery Team 2 recommend studying dam removal as a means to enhance salmon populations," he said.

Commercial fishing groups also voice concern about restoring historic Klamath River salmon populations.

"These are small, old dams that provide little power but do a great deal of damage to the river by blocking hundreds of miles of historic salmon spawning habitat," said Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "Salmon kills caused by these dams have destroyed fishing jobs in many once productive ports over hundreds of miles of coast line from Fort Bragg to Coos Bay. For PacifiCorp to ignore this problem is simply unacceptable."

Tucker said advocates of river restoration contend that providing adequate means for fish passage is in everyone's best interest.

Freeman said PacifiCorp is not proposing to remove any of its dams on the Klamath River or provide fish passage because their studies indicate that little fish habitat would be added by doing so.

"Our studies do not indicate a significant habitat in the Upper Klamath River for anadromous fish to warrant the removal of dams or construction of fish ladders," Freeman said.

"Increased access to habitat would lead to increased salmon and other migratory fish populations," he said. "For farmers, this could mean fewer laws and lawsuits aimed at changing farm practices to benefit fish."

According to Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe, the refusal to even study the costs and benefits of dam removal is a betrayal of trust.

"We came to the relicensing table with the company's explicit promise that we would be partners in deciding the fate of the Klamath River," Hillman said. "Scottish Power claims to be a green utility but what they are doing is cheating the Klamath Basin out of a possible solution."

Troy Fletcher from the Yurok Tribe said that down river Yurok's are both without fish and electricity.

"While they kill the fish with their hydropower dams, downstream Native Americans go without fish to eat or electricity in their homes," Fletcher said. "On the Upper Yurok reservation, 61 percent of the homes, a school, and two churches are without electricity. The Yurok people continue to bear the cost and impact of these dams."

Tucker said that relicensing is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make things right.

"This license will be something our children will have to live with," he said. "We must consider whether or not these antiquated structures still operate in the public interest."

Tucker said that the value of a healthy river is greater than the value of the electricity produced from the dams on it.

"Since these dams are not used for irrigation, we hope that this is a restoration project that the farming community can support as well," he said.

The filing of the license opens a 60-day period for comments and additional study requests with FERC. The target date for final license approval is March 2006.

"The application recommends to FERC operating conditions that best balance the project's electric generation and irrigation values with environmental protection and recreational and cultural resources," said PacifiCorp Hydro Licensing Manager Toby Freeman.

Other stakeholder groups don't agree.

"The Klamath River used to be the third greatest salmon producing river in the lower 49 states," Tucker said. "Today, two salmon species are extirpated from the river, one is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and two others have been reduced to 10 percent of historic numbers."

Tucker said that controversy over Klamath River dams was further ignited in 2002 when 33,000 fish died in the largest fish kill in U.S. history.

"Since then, reports by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and California Fish and Game have suggested that poor water quality contributed to the disaster."

Citing studies from the U.S. Geological Survey and river advocacy groups, Tucker said there are economic and environmental benefits to river restoration and increasing salmon populations.

"Many groups involved in the relicensing process cite effective fish passage mechanisms, such as fish ladders or dam removal, as potential strategies to achieve restoration," he said. "Despite voicing concerns over the past two years at relicensing meetings with PacifiCorp, tribes, fishermen's groups and environmentalists feel ignored by the final license application, which did not propose to study these options."

"Throughout the FERC process we have been arguing that for a realistic plan to bring salmon home to the upper basin to ensure the recovery of salmon and the delisting of threatened and endangered fish we must provide access to spawning habitat," said Merv George, director of the Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish and Water Commission. "Despite our good faith involvement in the relicensing process, we were ignored in the end. The company should be held accountable and uphold its responsibilities."

Tucker claims that recommendations of the scientific community were largely ignored as well.

"Recent scientific reports from the National Academy of Science and the California Coho Recovery Team 2 recommend studying dam removal as a means to enhance salmon populations," he said.

Commercial fishing groups also voice concern about restoring historic Klamath River salmon populations.

"These are small, old dams that provide little power but do a great deal of damage to the river by blocking hundreds of miles of historic salmon spawning habitat," said Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "Salmon kills caused by these dams have destroyed fishing jobs in many once productive ports over hundreds of miles of coast line from Fort Bragg to Coos Bay. For PacifiCorp to ignore this problem is simply unacceptable."

Tucker said advocates of river restoration contend that providing adequate means for fish passage is in everyone's best interest.

Freeman said PacifiCorp is not proposing to remove any of its dams on the Klamath River or provide fish passage because their studies indicate that little fish habitat would be added by doing so.

"Our studies do not indicate a significant habitat in the Upper Klamath River for anadromous fish to warrant the removal of dams or construction of fish ladders," Freeman said.

"Increased access to habitat would lead to increased salmon and other migratory fish populations," he said. "For farmers, this could mean fewer laws and lawsuits aimed at changing farm practices to benefit fish."

According to Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe, the refusal to even study the costs and benefits of dam removal is a betrayal of trust.

"We came to the relicensing table with the company's explicit promise that we would be partners in deciding the fate of the Klamath River," Hillman said. "Scottish Power claims to be a green utility but what they are doing is cheating the Klamath Basin out of a possible solution."

Troy Fletcher from the Yurok Tribe said that down river Yurok's are both without fish and electricity.

"While they kill the fish with their hydropower dams, downstream Native Americans go without fish to eat or electricity in their homes," Fletcher said. "On the Upper Yurok reservation, 61 percent of the homes, a school, and two churches are without electricity. The Yurok people continue to bear the cost and impact of these dams."

Tucker said that relicensing is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make things right.

"This license will be something our children will have to live with," he said. "We must consider whether or not these antiquated structures still operate in the public interest."

Tucker said that the value of a healthy river is greater than the value of the electricity produced from the dams on it.

"Since these dams are not used for irrigation, we hope that this is a restoration project that the farming community can support as well," he said. - SDN story by John Diehm

 

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