(ED: This editorial was originally published in the Siskiyou Daily News by CalTrout’s Conservation Director Curtis Knight)
There has been a lot of talk recently about the Klamath Settlement Agreements and dam removal. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar recently announced the completion of numerous peer-reviewed scientific and technical studies on dam removal and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is now open for public review.
The settlement agreements and dam removal are important issues for residents of Siskiyou County. The implications are big for our economy, for landowners along Copco Lake, for the Klamath River fishery and for agriculture. The recently released information deserves a strong look by the residents of Siskiyou County. The information in the studies should be compared and contrasted with what you hear on the street.
The suggestion that the Klamath Agreements do nothing but bad – destroy fisheries, cause flooding, compromise agriculture – should be backed up by supporting information and alternative solutions. It’s hard to argue the status quo is working – fish are dying, farmers do not receive predictable and consistent water deliveries, water quality is compromised and Siskiyou County’s economy is in need of a lift.
It’s important to remember these agreements were developed by local people – farmers, fisherman, tribes – to protect jobs with the goal of ending years of legal wrangling, to restore a fishery and to bring economic security to the Klamath Basin.
Many objections to the agreements and dam removal focus on only one small aspect of the agreements – either economic or environmental. But the agreements demonstrate the two can go hand-in-hand to help local economies, provide jobs and restore natural resources.
For example, the Draft EIS estimates 63 jobs will be lost per year with dam removal. Compare this to estimates of 1,400 jobs created during dam removal, another 4,600 during the 15-year implementation of the agreements, plus an increase of 70-695 agriculture jobs because of more reliable water supplies. All this with increases in the number of Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead returning to the Klamath River.
We often hear, “Dam removal will destroy the Klamath fishery.”
Why would commercial fishermen, who make their livelihood from catching salmon; tribes, who base their identity on salmon; and sportfishers, who pay money to come catch salmon and steelhead all sign on to an agreement that would be bad for fish?
The DEIS estimates an 81 percent increase in Chinook salmon returns to the Klamath River.
We often hear, “Why would PacifiCorp pull out perfectly good hydropower dams?”
PacifiCorp’s license through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has expired. PacifiCorp must either pay to relicense the dams or remove them. Both of these options cost ratepayers like us in Siskiyou County money. PacifiCorp and the Public Utility Commissions in Oregon and California have recognized that dam removal is the cheaper alternative for electrical ratepayers.
Under the settlement agreements, PacifiCorp’s costs are capped at $200 million. Fixing up the dams to make them safe and compliant will cost at least $460 million, according to the California PUC. PacifiCorp is making a smart business decision – their dams, their property, their choice – and it’s good for us as ratepayers.
What’s more, all four Klamath dams combined do not generate all that much power – 169 MW on the books, but according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission an average of only 82 MW per year over the past 50 years.
Contrast this to PG&E’s McCloud-Pit project just to the south where three dams generate a reliable 364 MW of hydropower. PacifiCorp is already committed to bringing more than 1,400 MW of brand new, cost effective renewable power online by 2015, dwarfing the loss of power from the Klamath dams.
We often hear that the risk of flooding will increase with the dams gone. The DEIS clearly states there will be “no significant impact” on flooding below Iron Gate dam (less than 7 percent maximum discharge difference between dams in and dams out). Maximum flood flow storage of the dams is only 10 hours – so in reality, the dams do very little to buffer large winter flood events.
If you are a Shasta or Scott Valley farmer, we believe the Klamath agreements will help take the regulatory monkey off your back. Salmon and steelhead are not “hot house flowers.” They are extremely adaptable and opportunistic. Salmon are colonizers and access to habitat above the dams will provide them more opportunities to reproduce.
For farmers and water users in the Shasta and Scott Valleys, this is a good thing because in part their efforts to restore salmon are compromised by conditions in the mainstem Klamath River. A healthier mainstem Klamath River and more habitat area translates to more fish and the prospect for less regulation throughout the Klamath basin.
In this age of political division, the agreements represent bipartisan support for a solution. This warrants careful review, not kick back response and baseless claims. And there will always be naysayers. Ask them for solutions, for their ideas to overcome existing problems, and how much broad support those ideas have. Crafting durable solutions is not easy and will not always please everyone. But the alternative is a status quo that is not working for the fish, the farmers or the communities of Siskiyou County.
Finally, we can volley claims back-and-forth all day in the press, but what we need is more community dialogue. CalTrout invites residents of Siskiyou County to a Water Talk on the Klamath Settlement Agreements on Dec. 15 at the Sisson Museum in Mt. Shasta. Water Talks is an ongoing series of informational and educational events with local and regional experts sharing on a range of water related topics.
The complexity of the Klamath dams issue and the real implications for Siskiyou County deserve discussion, scrutiny and consideration. All the information is at klamathrestoration.gov.