House passes Klamath dam bill, returns it to Senate
The Oregon House on Friday, June 12, moved forward a bill that
puts in motion a plan to remove four Klamath River dams,
despite opposition from rural Republicans who said the bill is
Senate Bill 76 previously passed the Senate along largely
party lines with Democrats supporting it and Republicans
Rep. Ben Cannon, D-Portland, characterized SB76 as little more
than a rate cap for PacifiCorp customers. Several steps must
be taken before dam removal gains approval, he said, including
several studies, approval from federal lawmakers and federal
Voting against the bill, he said, would put in jeopardy the
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, the restoration of fish
runs in the Klamath River and saddle PacifiCorp ratepayers
will continued uncertainty.
The bill, he said, caps ratepayer liability at $200 million.
And, he said, the Oregon Department of Justice has determined
there is a "low risk of taxpayer liability" if costs of dam
removal exceed previous estimates.
Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, said, however, he believes
the bill gives the dam removal plan momentum that will be hard
"It's the first domino," he said. "If you tip the first one
over, the whole row is going to collapse."
Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, agreed, saying: "This piece of
that process ... starts something that will not be easily
Further, Bentz said, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
renders water adjudication in the basin moot.
"And that is wrong," he said.
Bentz called for lawmakers to reject the bill.
"I don't say dams can't come out. I do say we have to do it
right," Bentz said.
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is a plan hammered out
by fishermen, farmers, ranchers, agency officials and others -
a total of 20 groups were involved. It outlines commitments
from water users and tribes in regard to water allocations in
the Klamath Basin.
The plan also puts in place a funding mechanism to pay for
removing the four dams.
Under the plan, PacifiCorp ratepayers would pay the first $200
million in dam removal costs. Additional costs would be funded
under a $250 million bond earmarked to go before California
Much of the uncertainty in the dam removal costs is based on
the level of toxicity in the sediment that has built up behind
the dams. Some believe cost estimates provided to date are
woefully short and Oregon taxpayers, they said, could get
stuck with paying for cost over-runs.
Cannon and other supporters, however, said several checks are
in place to prevent the project from going forward if removal
costs or environmental risks are high.
The House passed the bill, 34-24.
SB76 now heads back to the Senate for consideration of an
amendment added in the House that sought to limit ratepayer