Siskiyou County Calls for FERC Action on Klamath Dams
Stalling Brings About Call to Action
By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune
Dam removal on the Klamath River is stalled and opponents of the Klamath Settlements are pushing to speed up water quality improvements on the ailing river.
Although Klamath Settlements are on the Congressional table in the form of the Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act, stakeholders such as the Hoopa Tribe believe there is a less expensive route to dam removal.
The Tribe filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in late May to restart the process for evaluating the future of the dams. The final step in the FERC relicensing process is Clean Water Act certification from California and Oregon.
Siskiyou County does not support dam removal, but last week filed a response to Hoopa’s petition that says the states are failing to uphold their obligations under the Clean Water Act.
“…The states of California and Oregon have ignored their lawful options in processing the water quality certification for the Project (Klamath Hydroelectric Project) and have instead entered into a contract—with the signatures of their respective governor’s—that provides for the 401 process to be held in abeyance until at least the year 2020,” Siskiyou County wrote in their response to the Hoopa Tribe’s Petition to FERC.
Under the FERC process, PacifiCorp would have to decide whether to invest in expensive fish passage and water quality upgrades to the hydroelectric project, or remove the dams.
The Hoopa Tribe believes that dam removal is far more likely to occur under the aforementioned scenario than deadlocked legislation. Others disagree, like the Northwest Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisehrmen’s Associations (PCFFA), Glen Spain. Spain defends the Klamath Settlements and remains optimistic that legislation is the cure for decades of perpetual disaster in the Klamath Basin.
“The KBRA is very much like the San Joaquin Settlement Agreement, seeking to restore salmon to the completely dewatered San Joaquin River for the first time in 60 years. That also took some years longer to get funded through Congress than originally anticipated,” Spain wrote in an email. “But once the San Joaquin Settlement Act began to move, it took only three weeks to become law.”
Siskiyou County opposed the Settlements early in their inception, but for different reasons than the Hoopa Tribe. Hoopa wants the dams to come down, but doesn’t believe the Settlements are realistic. The Tribe also believes the settlements fail to provide enough water for salmon and fail to protect senior water rights in the Basin.
“Despite the aspirations of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, that planning process is not cleaning up our water. Instead, it blocks fish unless Congress passes dangerous and expensive legislation, which is going nowhere,” Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman, Leonard Masten said in a prepared statement.
Spain holds that the FERC process will not bring down the dams.
“FERC has never ordered a dam down in its history except pursuant to a Settlement like the KHSA,” Spain said. “There is no special reason they would do so in this one case. This is an agency of which it is said that is has never seen a dam it did not like!”
Representing the Hoopa Tribe on the matter, Thomas Schlosser also wrote in an email that Settlement proponents have ignored the many dam removals that are occurring as a result of the FERC process. He cited the removal of PacifiCorp’s Condit Dam last October.
“Why did PacifiCorp remove Condit?,” he said. “It was because FERC’s license included the agencies’ prescriptions—requirements of volitional upstream and downstream fish passage…typically in these cases, the licensee concludes that future operation of a project on the new terms that are consistent with existing law will be uneconomic, so the licensee seeks and obtains FERC’s permission to decommission the project. PacifiCorp’s testimony to the PUCs in connection with the dam removal surcharge makes clear their opinion that the most cost effective route for them is removal of all four dams.”
On Monday, the Hoopa Tribe issued a call to action asking the public to participate in an upcoming California State Water Resources Control Board meeting where they are expected to continue stalling the Clean Water Act Certification process. The meeting will be held on July 17, 2012 in Sacramento.