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County intends to challenge Klamath dam decision in federal court
by John Bowman, Siskiyou Daily News 2/9/12


“The County of Siskiyou is convinced legal action is necessary to challenge a decision that is contrary to science and the stated goals for the Klamath River and which will be inimical to the interests of the people of Siskiyou County,” the letter states. “If you do indeed press forward at this time and issue the Secretarial Determination, Siskiyou County intends to challenge the decision in federal court.”

Salazar is scheduled to issue his secretarial determination regarding Klamath dam removal by the end of March. The determination will designate that Klamath dam removal either is or is not in the best interest of the fishery and the communities affected.

This most recent letter from the board is another in a series of several letters sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and its representatives. Like the previous letters, this one insists that Salazar has pre-determined – allegedly without proper completion of the state and federally mandated scientific and economic analysis – that removal of the dams is the best option for the Klamath region and its human and fish populations.

It also repeats the allegation that the DOI has not fulfilled what the county says is a legal obligation to coordinate its efforts with Siskiyou County government.

“In previous correspondence we have been very clear about our objections to this process moving forward without the DOI, its agencies and other federal entities fulfilling their statutory obligations to coordinate with local governments by considering and analyzing issues of local concern and attempting to reconcile, or at least minimize, inconsistent federal actions,” the letter states.

In the letter the board alleges, “by participating in such substantial changes in management of the Klamath River resources, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) triggers an obligation under 43 U.S.C. 1712 to undertake the processes to coordinate the new management scheme with local government plans and policies.”

John Bezdek, special advisor to the chief of staff, Office of the Secretary, sent a letter to the board on Nov. 4, 2011 in response to some of its allegations of misconduct by DOI.

Concerning accusations that the DOI has failed to coordinate with county government, Bezdek’s letter states, “The Department of the Interior has consistently reached out to the county on numerous occasions over the past several years in meetings with the full board (including three public meetings where I have personally testified before the board), individual supervisors and technical staff. In short, we have met with the county every time you have asked for a meeting and we will continue to do so throughout the entirety of this process.”


Regarding the board’s citation of United States Code, Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) at 43 USC § 1712(c), Bezdek wrote, “That provision of FLPMA applies only when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing or revising its land use plans ... neither of which is the case here. Simply put, our science and environmental process is about the potential removal of four privately owned dams on the Klamath River, something that is not a BLM resource management planning exercise.”

The supervisors, in the most recent letter, list “a multitude of actions and responsibilities involving (or likely to involve) the BLM,” which they say trigger the coordination requirement. Many of these “actions and responsibilities” involve BLM’s management of land and resources in and around sections of the Klamath River affected by dam removal.

The letter also points out other obstacles to dam removal including the lack of congressional passage of legislation authorizing the dam removal agreements and the lack of California state authorization of state funds required for dam removal.

Funding concerns

District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela was the only supervisor to vote against approval of the letter.

“My concern has always been the amount of money that we spend on this whole process,” Valenzuela said. “In the last few years that I’ve been on this board, we’ve spent a ton of money, laid-off people and asked for give-backs – which I’ll remind you, the board has not done yet – just to fight a what-if scenario,” he said.

Valenzuela said he feels the county has issues of much higher significance to address than “a 10-year event down the line that may or may not happen.”

District 5 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong said that she believes that “most of these lawsuits on water are not funded through the general fund.”
Valenzuela told the Daily News that funding for these kinds of expenditures usually comes from the provisions fund.

“It’s all county money that we are spending, and we just can’t afford it,” he said.

Both Valenzuela and District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook said there is no money allocated to fund the lawsuit at this time.

“That’s something we’ll have to figure out when the time comes,” Cook said.

Armstrong said the county also receives revenue from its Box Canyon hydroelectric dam near Lake Siskiyou that can contribute funds for efforts like these.

District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff said he believes “there comes a point where you have to spend money to fight for the economic future of the county.”

He said if the dams come out, the county will lose $250,000 in property taxes per year and rate payers will be paying more, too.



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