This Editorial supporting Klamath River dam removal was written by CalTrout Conservation Director Curtis Knight and published in the Siskiyou Daily News. This is CalTrout’s response to the disappointing news that the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors plan to sue to oppose the removal of the four lower Klamath River dams.
Mount Shasta, Calif. — The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors’ decision to spend precious county legal funds on challenging the Secretary of the Interior’s pending decision regarding dam removal on the Klamath River is disappointing for several reasons.
First, kudos to Supervisor Ed Valenzuela, who has posed the key questions Siskiyou County residents have whether they are for dam removal or not – “Is this the best use of limited county funds?” And, “Just how much has been spent on legal fees on this issue? To what end?”
There are certain conditions that must be met prior to the Secretary of the Interior making a decision on dam removal. One condition is congressional approval. As the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors correctly points out, this has not yet occurred. And the secretary can’t make a decision until it does. So, in a sense, the Board of Supervisors is threatening to sue the Department of Interior over something the Department of Interior doesn’t have the authority to do.
The county’s primary concern appears to be that the Secretary of the Interior will make a decision on dam removal without adequate environmental review or that is “contrary to science.” A Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released with hundreds of pages of studies. Also, a Draft Secretarial Determination Overview Report was recently released that summarizes Klamath River biology, hydrology, sediment issues, recreation and economics. Both of these are ongoing and involve a tremendous amount of scientific and economic analysis. The secretary’s decision will not happen until these analyses are complete.
The “hide your head in the sand” approach – hoping the dams can stay and operate as they are – is simply not an option. There are two legal options for the dams: 1) fix them up and relicense them to modern standards at a cost exceeding $450 million, which is passed on to ratepayers; or 2) decommission and remove the dams under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) at a cost capped at $200 million to PacifiCorp and its ratepayers. Dam removal is cheaper. Much cheaper.
So PacifiCorp, as a private business, has chosen the cheaper alternative. The county’s position to try and force PacifiCorp into a bad economic decision sends the wrong message to other businesses that may want to invest in our area.
In the article, Supervisor Michael Kobseff asserts that “the county will lose $250,000 of tax revenue under the dam removal agreement.”
This is not the case. The KHSA requires California and Oregon to make payments in-lieu of taxes to make up for any lost tax revenue. In other words, under the KHSA the removal of the dams will result in no net loss of PacifiCorp generated tax revenue to Siskiyou County.
The Klamath Settlement Agreements represent a big economic opportunity for Siskiyou County – an opportunity that is not fully realized. The Klamath Agreements are expected to bring 4,600 jobs to the region over a 15-year period, preserve agricultural jobs and bring millions of dollars of investment. Active and collaborative participation in discussions with all the many parties who have come together to solve a problem will only expand the county’s opportunities. This why the biggest irrigation district in the county supports the agreements.
It is time for county leaders to take advantage of this opportunity, not fight progress. Forcing a private company to keep dams that are uneconomical is not good for the future of Siskiyou County.