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Letter: Klamath dams provide precedent for Snake River dams

  •  by Rex Cozzalio, 3rd generation rancher at Hornbrook, Ca on the Klamath River.

    Snake River ag stakeholders (Miller) comment on Klamath dam removal

Regarding the Nov. 18 article, “Snake River ag stakeholders comment on Klamath dam removal.”

It may be understandable but unfortunate that those defending their own home will try to distance themselves from others targeted for destruction, pretending they are “too different” to be at risk.

Mr. Miller of Northwest River Partners believes “anyone who goes beyond the headlines” will recognize that the Klamath decision won’t have implications for the Snake River dams. Sadly, that statement would indicate Mr. Miller has only read the special interest media headlines.

As the largest proposed project destruction in the known world, the Klamath may be on a smaller scale, but is directly related and currently cited by the same special interests as the “precedent” for “rewilding” on the Snake.

The Klamath Project is intrinsic to our entire region, and it is only through its symbiotic managed optimization of holistic benefits in our historically highly variable transitional climate zone that our area has been made sustainable for all beneficial uses, particularly environmental. Sound familiar?

Despite rhetoric otherwise, Klamath dams were approved with no anadromy fish passage by agencies over a 100 years ago because anadromy was never known in significant numbers above the present dams, supported by extensive evidence including salmon returns to the upper region indicating no negative overall impacts and recent archeological digs of over 15,000 fish bones proving that fact covering at least 8,000 years.

The “already paid for existing” Klamath power generation facilities in excellent condition is the least expensive, most cost effective, renewable, demand-responsive power possible serving over 70,000 homes central to our rural area infrastructure and vital to regional power stability and reliability.

The deep water lakes created by them provide the only current known significant downstream improvement of upstream water quality. Mr. Miller’s “comparison” of a grossly underestimated 10-year-old “cost” to “blow” the Klamath to an estimated total “replacement value” of dam provided benefits on the Snake is illogical or intentionally misleading, as the historical documentation, area specific experience, and current empirical science places the “replacement value” of Klamath Project-provided regional environmental and economic sustainability “benefits” as fiscally and holistically irreplaceable. That regional loss would be permanent, “just” as it would be on the Snake.

Pacific Power was never in support of destruction, until agencies and special interests threatened and bribed them into submission, with the current owner transferring title before imposed massive acknowledged “unavoidable and unmitigated” damages occur.

The same rewilding agenda special interests targeting the dams have already been executing piecemeal assault on project symbiotic regional sustainability for decades in the Upper Klamath, directly resulting in unaccountable statistical decimation of the only two species used as the “modeled justification” for “rewilding” confiscation and regional devastation. Decades old “modeled” justifications for confiscation-without-compensation imposed in Upper Klamath miserably failed “restoration experiments” are the same “models” being used to “determine” current Project dam destruction claimed “benefits.”

Meanwhile, the past decade of specifically applicable empirical studies and data directly refuting destruction “benefits” and predicting permanent damages have been pointedly ignored at special interest request.

Under the current FERC approved “agreement” terms, if not reversed, agencies and special interest signatories have created a “process” whereby they compelled a quasi-public entity to relinquish its assets and resources; effectively exclude the most impacted officially voting regional supermajorities in opposition; are held personally harmless for the damages they impose; unilaterally confiscate the funds for destruction from unrepresented and unwilling ratepayers/taxpayers suffering the consequences of that destruction; have virtually no accountability for mitigating the vast majority of damages; disappear after completed destruction or the money runs out, whichever occurs first; and personally benefit regardless of destruction outcome. In fact, the worse the environmental outcome, the more the Agencies and special interest signatories gain in future increased funding and confiscatory authority.

If that isn’t a “precedent” model for future unaccountable destruction … what is?

Rex Cozzalio
Hornbrook, Calif.

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Snake River ag stakeholders (Miller) comment on Klamath dam removal


Regional stakeholders are mixed on whether federal regulators’ decision to breach four dams on the Klamath River has any bearing on future arguments to breach dams on the lower Snake River.

The Federal Energy Regulatory’s Commission (FERC) decision is “disappointing,” but the Klamath dams serve “distinctly different purposes,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

“The Snake River provides significant power generation for the region and is an important transportation route for agriculture and other goods,” Hennings said. “Similar action on the Snake River would be even more problematic and disruptive to the economy of Washington State.”

WAWG will continue to monitor impacts of the decision, Hennings said.

Northwest RiverPartners, which serves not-for-profit community-owned electric utilities in the region, said the decision to remove the Klamath River dams has no bearing on the Snake River dams.

“Our organization doesn’t support dams for dams’ sake,” executive director Kurt Miller said. “Every dam is different.”

RiverPartners has known for some time that the Klamath dams were likely to come out, he said.

“They were literally walls in the river,” he said. “Those are dams we didn’t see any reason to support preserving. It was clear the owner of the dams (thought) they were expensive and were not providing very much electricity. For them to be upgraded to provide fish passage would have cost them a lot of money.”

PacifiCorp owns the Klamath River dams.

FERC only acts on requests from licensees, and does not initiate any such actions of its own, said Mary O’Driscoll, director of the media relations division for the regulatory commission. Any proposal for dam breaching would have to come from a licensee.

The Snake River dams are owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congressional authorization would be needed for the Army Corps to pursue breaching the dams.

The Snake River dams are “almost the exact opposite” of the Klamath River dams, Miller said.

“The only thing they really have in common is that there is four of each of them,” he said. “The lower Snake River dams are the perfect example of dams you want to keep.”

The lower Snake River dams produce up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, while the Klamath dams produce closer to 100 megawatts, Miller said.

The Klamath dams have no fish passage, while the Snake River dams have “the most advanced fish passage systems in the world” and pass juvenile fish “at the same rate as a free-flowing river,” Miller said.

Miller understands that some in the Klamath River community are concerned about the dams being removed.

“The litmus test that we use is, is the dam providing value to society, because dams do change ecosystems, so for a dam to exist, it needs to provide value to society,” he said.

The Klamath dam demolition proposal has a price tag of $500 million. Miller said it speaks to the value of the Snake River dams that the price of removing them would be “100 times higher.” A recent federal and Washington state report estimated it would cost at least between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion to replace all the benefits of the Snake River dams.

Miller believes “anyone who goes beyond the headlines” will recognize that the Klamath decision won’t have implications for the Snake River dams.

“Obviously there are some anti-dam activist groups that will want to use them as an example,” he said. “But we try to call those groups out politely. If you get past the initial talking points, they’ll acknowledge they’re not the same dams.”

Others worry that breaching the Klamath dams opens the door to further breaching.

“This is setting the precedent — I think this would make having a conversation around the Snake River more difficult if they did find a way to breach any other dams,” said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “You lose one dam, I think you could start losing them all.”

The Klamath Basin is important for irrigation in the dry region, Goule said. He also stressed the importance of the entire river transportation system, including the Columbia-Snake and the Mississippi River, for farmers.

The U.S. should use infrastructure funding to update the systems, Goule said.

“This breaching dams conversation needs to stop,” he said.



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