Oregon Senate passes Klamath bill on dam removal funding
SALEM - The
Oregon Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 17, endorsed a funding plan for
removing four Klamath River dams despite objections from
opponents that the plan fails to protect PacificCorp ratepayers.
Senate Bill 76, which supporters say caps PacificCorp
ratepayers' liability at $180 million, passed 18-12 along mostly
Opponents questioned whether the bill caps liabilities or
whether Oregon ratepayers would be responsible for cost
"(SB76) does not cover the liabilities that may result from dam
removal," said Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, who was the lone
Democrat to oppose the bill. "I am very disappointed to have to
vote no today."
In her floor comments supporting the bill, Sen. Jackie
Dingfelder, D-Portland, read a letter provided her by the Oregon
Department of Justice stating the risk that Oregon ratepayers'
liability will exceed the cap was low.
"This bill makes sense for Oregon ratepayers and it makes sense
for restoring the Klamath Basin," Dingfelder said.
Michael Carrier, a policy advisor for Gov. Ted Kulongoski,
agreed, saying: "It absolutely caps ratepayers liability at $180
million. If you want to protect ratepayers, pass this
Under Senate Bill 76, Oregon ratepayers would be responsible for
paying $180 million of the project's anticipated cost of $200
million. California ratepayers, who make up approximately 10
percent of PacificCorp customers, would be responsible for the
remaining $20 million.
Also, according to the plan hammered out in an agreement between
Klamath Basin tribes, fisheries, farmers, ranchers and
conservationists, California lawmakers are expected to put a
$250 million bond before voters to provide a cushion in case
costs exceed current estimates.
Spread over 10 years, the average PacificCorp customer can
expect a $1.50 increase in their monthly bills, according to
Southern Oregon Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Grants Pass, was the lone
Republican backing the plan in Tuesday's vote.
He said he endorsed the plan despite considerable opposition
among many of his constituents. At a hearing before a Senate
committee earlier this session, one landowner handed Senators a
petition opposing the plan signed by 1,850 Klamath Basin
"We're protecting citizens: We're protecting farmers," Atkinson
said. "The brave thing to do is to move this forward."
Sen. Dave Nelson, R-Pendleton, was among 11 Republicans opposing
the bill. He said with water storage at a shortage, now was no
time to be removing dams.