Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Legislators hear Klamath deal’s pros, cons
Sweeping proposal would require four dams to be removed
(KBC NOTE: the 1850 petitions include 4 separate petitions opposing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement that demands the removal of 4 Klamath hydropower dams. Petitions include Karuk tribal members, Siskiyou County, Klamath Off-Project irrigators, and Klamath Basin Alliance. They are stakeholders who are not allowed at the top-secret closed-door 'stakeholders' meetings. Also, testimony in Salem included information from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's reports that the cost to power ratepayers could be up to $4.5 billion)
by MITCH LIES Capital Press 2/5/09
SALEM — The crisis in the Klamath Basin came to the Oregon Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 3, as supporters and opponents of a bill that sets in motion a hoped-for resolution made their cases before lawmakers.
Supporters of a plan three years in the making said the resolution introduced in Senate Bill 76 includes extensive give-and-take and, under the circumstances, represents a best-case scenario for all parties.
Opponents said the plan falls short of protecting PacifiCorp ratepayers, Klamath Basin agriculture or endangered fish runs.
The bill, which puts in motion the funding mechanism for removing four dams on the Klamath River, was scheduled to go back before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Thursday, Feb. 5, after press deadline.
The Klamath Tribes, farmers, fishermen, conservationists and Gov. Ted Kulongoski have signed on to the plan.
“For the Klamath Tribes, this has been a long road,” said Jeff Mitchell of the Klamath Tribal Council. “This marks the beginning of the restoration of a fisheries — one lost for 90 years.”
Several farmers who testified at the committee hearing Tuesday, Feb. 3, said they were highly motivated to arrive at a solution to a crisis that drove federal water managers to shut off irrigation water to 1,200 basin farmers in 2001.
Greg Addington, head of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the plan isn’t ideal for his members. It could cost growers about one-third of their water supply in dry years. But, he said, it’s better than the alternative.
“Zero (water) is not good. That’s hard to make work,” Addington said in reference to the 2001 cutoff. “This gives us a more secure and reliable supply, but less water than we need in some years.”
“Not any of us got everything we wanted,” Mitchell said. “But I think we can go back to our homes and our constituency and say we do have predictability now.”
“This is the best chance to help bring stability to the ag community I love,” said Becky Hyde, a rancher from the Upper Klamath Lake region.
Rancher and hay farmer Tom Mallams, meanwhile, handed committee members a petition signed by 1,850 farmers and ranchers in the basin opposing the plan.
“It’s going to decimate the area,” Mallams told committee members.
Glenn Barrett, another rancher from the area, said he believes PacifiCorp’s cost estimates for dam removal are short and that Oregon ratepayers will be stuck paying the extra costs. And, he said, half the water users in the basin could lose substantial amounts of water under the plan.
“I’m afraid we’re going to take water out of Oregon agriculture and send it to California to protect flows,” he said. “There is no protection for the private landowners outside the (Bureau of Reclamation) project.”
The bill is the first step of a two-state process that also requires congressional and Obama administration approval. SB76 includes a cap on ratepayer liabilities and provides assurances for water delivery to irrigators and for fish.
PacifiCorp officials said removing the dams is the company’s lowest-cost alternative. They said relicensing the dams — required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before the utility can continue operating them — would require fish ladders, fish screens and other extensive structural improvements.
California has agreed to place a bond measure before voters to pay $250 million of the plan’s costs, while ratepayers in Oregon and California will pay $200 million. About 90 percent of the ratepayers’ costs — or $180 million — would come from Oregon ratepayers, who make up the vast majority of PacifiCorp’s regional customers.
The cap for electrical rates under the plan is set at $1.50 a month over a 10-year period, according to Scott Bolton, government affairs director for PacifiCorp.The plan calls for PacifiCorp to start removing the dams in 2020.
Staff writer Mitch Lies is based in Salem. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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