Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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What will dam removal mean in the future?
Herald and News October 6, 2009
The Herald and News continues its questions and answers to a variety of community members and leaders about the dam removal agreement and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreements. We asked them to address these questions:
From your point of view, what’s most important about a dam removal agreement?
If the dam removal agreement and KBRA come to pass, what will we see that will be different in 10/20/40 years?
If the agreements are turned down, how will issues develop locally?
How would you suggest explaining the proposals so that readers, whether they live in rural areas or in the middle of urban centers, grasp the impact?
Doug Whitsett, Oregon state senator:
“A cursory look at critical parts of the draft document suggests that many of the major unanswered questions in the Agreement in Principle remain unanswered in the draft Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
“All relevant estimates for the total cost of dam decommissioning, removal and ecological restoration greatly exceed $450 million. The states and federal government continue to deny responsibility for any liability incurred as the result of the dam removal.”
The Basin will see less farming and an increased federal presence in the region in the coming years with the dam removal agreement, purchasing more land and creating more wildlife refuges, he said.
“I would see the Department of Interior expanding their global solution to the upper Klamath Basin..”
“There’s a lot of different things we should be looking at that would actually address the cause of the problems.”
Removing junipers could preserve much more water than is currently used in the upper Basin. Recent wetland expansion leads to tens of thousands acre-feet more of water going into the atmosphere. Improving fish hatchery techniques could also improve fish health, as could mitigating predation.
More water storage would go toward meeting demand for the resource, as the region doesn’t have less water but an increased need for it.
“That’s one of the things the KBRA and the dam removal agreement don’t contemplate.”
People in the Basin will see more incursion of the federal government in the Basin with both agreements and will likely see higher power bills because of dam removal. Project irrigators will benefit from the agreements, but that would come at a cost.
“I believe that the agreements as written will pretty much destroy the cattle industry in the Basin and that is the No. 1 commodity in the Klamath Basin.”
Felice Pace, publisher of KlamBlog:
He doesn’t think the hydro agreement holds much significance.
“Now if they succeed in getting these deals through Congress that would be significant.”
He said he sees little change over time with this agreement.
“The core idea here is to roll back change. In the short run this will lead to a petition to list Chinook salmon and a lot more litigation. But down the road the salmon will still be imperiled because we will not have the flows and water quality needed for recovery.
“A lot more money will be spent on restoration but it will be an unacknowledged and unadmitted failure just as is the case with the millions we’ve spent on restoration over the past 25 years. That’s because restoration money is treated as pork and so there is never accountability or the standards needed to render restoration effective.”
Without the agreements, he said PacifiCorp would return to the relicensing process.
“PacifiCorp might have to pay for dam removal because they can’t get a clean water certificate or it is too expensive to fix the water quality. What would likely happen is a lawsuit or two and then a settlement, which is a better deal for the river and the taxpayers down the pike.
“There is no need to do federal legislation to get the dams out other than to give a sweet deal to PacifiCorp.”
It’s just more of the same, he said. “The rich and powerful get what they want and need and the common people pay for it ...”
Trish Seiler, Klamath Falls City Council:
“The agreement will help the community move forward from years of litigation and lack of communication towards a common goal of sustainability for all stakeholder groups. It will provide a foundation on which to build a common economic vision for the entire Klamath Basin.”
With the agreements in place, Seiler says she sees a “strong, thriving agricultural community, both on- and off-Project, with crop diversity and the flexibility to respond to market demands. I see a stable economic base for all tribes affected by the agreement; in particular the Klamath Tribes, but also for the Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok tribes.. I see fisheries nearing complete restoration, which will positively impact both tribal and commercial fishing livelihoods. And I see increased economic development opportunities for the region based on tourism and travelers’ interest in local ecology, sustainable environments and in understanding where our food comes from.”
Without the agreements, she sees litigation, mistrust and miscommunication.
“I think the g roups involved have come too far to want to go back to those times. While it remains to be seen how all aspects of the agreement will be paid for, the current local momentum combined with state and federal political support, will help finalize an agreement that is beneficial for all stakeholders and for the community as a whole.
“I also believe the dollars are available to make the agreement happen; we must continue to keep the issue in front of our state and federal governments so that it becomes a priority for funding.”
“Bottom line, it is about the economic survival of all stakeholders, and the positive impact of stable agricultural, tribal and fisheries economies on the financial future of the Basin..
“Moreover, it is about how we define ourselves: do we chose unity over divisiveness, facts over fear tactics, communication and mutual respect over continued animosity, realistic resolutions that are future oriented over constant litigation with no sustainable planning.”
Roger Nicholson, president, Resource Conservancy:
He said that the agreement isn’t fully clear about dam removal, as some stakeholders have said it only establishes a process toward dam removal.
He said that he personally opposes dam removal, but that the Resource Conservancy has not and will not take a stance on the issue.
“I think it’s just the beginning of rate increases for Klamath County customers.” The removal of the four dams will up the price of power, impacting the economy — especially in Siskiyou County where three of the dams are.
Without the agreements, he said he believes the dams will continue as producers of cheap, hydroelectric power, something Nicholson said most people in the Klamath Basin would prefer.
Higher prices for power will be detrimental to the whole community, Nicholson said.
Those opposed to dam removal proposed alternatives to provide passage for salmon to reach the upper reaches of the Klamath River. But that area is naturally inhospitable to salmon and Nicholson described the prospect of removing dams to bring them there as somewhat frivolous.
John Scully, Rogue Group Sierra Club in Ashland:
He points out that this is not a final agreement, but, rather, “an agreement for negotiators and their respective organizations to consider before wrapping it into the larger Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.
“This step toward dam removal is certainly significant as it represents a step toward restoring the basin and removing these antiquated dams.
“Unfortunately, this agreement is tied to the larger, more harmful KBRA that makes significant conservation sacrifices throughout the Basin. Dam removal is a positive step forward, but not necessarily when it’s linked to other harmful provisions.”
There could be nothing changed, he said.
“Certainly in 10 years under this agreement, which if it is successful does not slate dam removal to begin until 2020, the river will still suffer under the status quo. Status quo means poor water quality conditions in dam reservoirs and for communities downstream.”
Dropping the agreements would cause unrest amongst stakeholders. And given the costs of the agreements, it’s likely there will be roadblocks.
“Restoration is a necessity on this river and it must come in a package that addresses water quality, water quantity and dam removal. A strategy that does not address each of those three concerns will shortchange fish, wildlife, and stakeholder communities.”
“We are in an era of dam removals, which is significant to communities everywhere. This suggests that our nation and our local communities are interested in seeing basins restored and rejuvenated.
“I just hope we can do that on the Klamath in a way that doesn’t sacrifice salmon and egrets along the way.”
Kirk Miller, California Natural Resources Agency deputy secretary and general counsel:
It provides the basis for a turnaround for the Basin that otherwise might not occur, he said. “ You need everyone at the table to try to resolve these matters.”
“In 10 years I think the rivers and the fisheries health will be improved because of the interim measures. I hope in 20 years you’ll have a vibrant fishery. Forty years I can’t estimate.”
Without the agreements? All the issues addressed by the agreements would be there to solve again, he said.
“While the Klamath was once one of the premier salmon rivers in the country it has certainly lost that status and I think it’s to everyone’s advantage to restore that status. (The dam removal agreement) allows for more stable environmental and economic prospects for communities along the river.”
Cheryl Hukill, Klamath County commissioner:
“The significance to me is PacifiCorp trying to not only look out for their liability but the consumer’s.”
The company was also pressured by state and federal government officials before the KBRA was developed to take out the dams, something she said people need to be made aware of.
New sources of power will continue to develop in response to growing demand, she said, and the community is realizing that hydroelectric can’t meet all of its energy needs.
Discussion and collaboration will continue if the agreements are dropped, she said. “I don’t see it ending. If this doesn’t go through, I see there still being talks.”
“The significance is keeping our agricultural community viable.”
Hukill said she hadn’t read the dam removal agreement in full yet. It could be key to keeping an industry that contributes to the nation’s food supply up and running.
John Elliott, Klamath County commissioner:
He says the agreement itself is the most significant thing about it. “The fact of these groups coming together to address mutual concerns.”
What would he see? Stability. The Basin would benefit for decades on the increased certainty and predictability the two agreements may bring, he said.
“What I would hope is that the hope that was brought to the table is realized.”
Without the dam removal agreement and KBRA, he says the region will see more litigation, no cooperation and a lot of bitterness.
“It’s a repeat of the last 10 years, maybe the last 20 years.”
The sustainability of the region’s economy is a big part of the two agreements, and ultimately that impacts everyone in the community one way or another.
He says the benefits are yet to be seen but they will appear over time.
Page Updated: Wednesday October 07, 2009 02:44 AM Pacific
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