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Supervisors: Seek more solutions than removing dams

On Sept.23 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released applications filed by PacifiCorp and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), the non-profit entity that PacifiCorp proposes to take over its dam operations and maintenance obligations under the current FERC license.

The application submitted by KRRC requests that FERC transfer license ownership of four dams on the Klamath River, three of which are located in Siskiyou County, to KRRC and subsequently approve the removal of JC Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate Dams. The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors continues to look for solutions for the Klamath Basin and Siskiyou County which will protect the interests of local residents, the economy, and natural resources.

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and original Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which both expired in December 2015, did not fully address all options available for Klamath River restoration and did not take into consideration the concerns, questions, and proactive proposals of Siskiyou County, as have been raised consistently since before and during creation of the agreements.

The original parties to the expired agreements, together with the States of Oregon and California, have now entered into two new agreements, the 2016 Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement as Amended, which include the proposed FERC license transfer from PacifiCorp to KRRC, should FERC determine KRRC to be sufficiently qualified for the associated responsibilities.

Along with other issues and concerns, these two new agreements do not, at this time, appear to include the assurances for Klamath Reclamation Project and Upper Klamath Basin water users that the KBRA and KHSA included.

Siskiyou County is concerned with the potential economic and environmental consequences that would impact the County if the dams were transferred and removed by the KRRC.

The county contends that the 20-30 million cubic yards of sediment that has collected behind the dams, and would be released down the Klamath River after dam removal, has not been adequately evaluated to address the adverse local and environmental impacts. Nor has the possibility of catastrophic floods, either during dam removal activities, or thereafter, been fully analyzed.

Water that is usually released from storage behind Copco Dam for Klamath River pulse flows to improve fisheries habitat during the summer would have to come directly from Upper Klamath Lake, which would have an impact on Klamath Project irrigators.

Property value loss in the areas around Iron Gate and Copco Dams, which Siskiyou County estimates would be several million dollars, have never been properly evaluated by parties to the agreements, although Siskiyou County has made several requests for them to do so.

In addition, Siskiyou County has estimated that approximately $1 million in annual tax revenue would be lost to the county, if the dams were removed, which funnels into Siskiyou County school systems. Siskiyou County is also concerned that parties to the new agreements and the KRRC will continue to limit stakeholder involvement and outreach, including Siskiyou County and its water users, as has been demonstrated in the past. As three of the dams and the majority of the Klamath River reside in Siskiyou County, the County’s involvement and inclusion is vital to these processes.

There is continuing uncertainty as to whether PacifiCorp, KRRC upon license transfer, or the affected federal, state or local agencies will be financially responsible for resulting local and regional damages. In relation to this, Siskiyou County is primarily concerned with the request to transfer ownership of the dams to a non-profit entity, who may not address impacts to Siskiyou County once the dams are removed.

“The stakes are just too great, and the uncertainties too many, to have the proposed license transfer and removal of the dams proceed without sufficient analysis and public scrutiny,” states Siskiyou Board Chair, Grace Bennett.

In a continued effort to adequately address Klamath River water quality and fisheries issues, Siskiyou County has proposed, and will continue to propose, several potential solutions for analysis.

These include proposals for “trap and haul,” which has been utilized for other dams, where installing a fish ladder is not practical. Trap and haul would include fish being transferred by specialized tankers or barges to be released back into the Klamath River upstream of the dams. However, although utilized on other river systems, trap and haul has never been seriously considered as an option for the Klamath River system.

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, County Natural Resource Policy Specialist, County Counsel, and a Washington D.C. law firm contracted by Siskiyou County are actively reviewing and preparing responses to the applications submitted to FERC and will address the concerns and questions that the county and its citizens have continued to raise over the last several years.

The county intends to submit formal comments to FERC in the coming weeks and will make these comments available to the public once they are submitted.

If members of the public have any questions, would like information related to the proposed dam removal, or would like more information regarding the County’s efforts regarding the proposals, please visits the Siskiyou County Natural Resources web-page at http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/page/natural-resources. Additionally, information can be obtained by contacting Elizabeth Nielsen, Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist at enielsen@co.siskiyou.ca.us or (530) 842-8012.






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              Page Updated: Tuesday November 01, 2016 01:59 AM  Pacific

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