The San Francisco Chronicle said what most sensible people are thinking about the four Klamath River dams, which — especially given the wide acceptance of the Klamath Basin agreements negotiated by stakeholders — should simply come out:
It’s time for Washington to heed science over politics. The test involves the ailing Klamath River, where four aging power dams along the California-Oregon border are holding back farming, tainting river flows with toxic algae, and decimating migratory fish.
Taking out the barriers – a nearly $1 billion task – could substantially revive the river and pump up the economy in one of state’s poorest corners, according to a 400-page U.S. Geological Survey study, the most comprehensive look at the plan to date.
The findings should do more than gather dust. The statistics and charts can unstick the river restoration plan stalled on Capitol Hill because of familiar feuding over budget cuts and party rivalries.
Washington is ignoring a creative and balanced solution. Both California and Oregon, which share the dam-lined stretch of the Klamath, are behind the demolition. PacifiCorp, the power company that runs the dams, is in favor, largely to avoid higher costs it faces in modernizing the structures that date back a century. Fishing groups, Indian tribes, and farmers are among some 42 groups that worked out the demolition and water sharing embedded in the plan.
There are no other sensible options. Leaving the dams in place deepens the river’s decline. Pushing a lawsuit to demolish the fish-harming structures will take years beyond the preferred tear-down date of 2020. No one wants a repeat of 2002, when low flows and warm water left thousands of dead salmon lining the river.
Congress should seize this opportunity: a chance to heed scientific findings and a coalition of interest groups with a solid plan. Tear down the dams now.
You can read the editorial here — or leave a comment supporting the Chronicle’s stand.