It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests of the community.
I have noted amid the articles in the Triplicate, as well as in several other sources, that certain conflicts with the idea that dam removal meets the standard of overall healthy restoration of the upper Klamath Basin, as well as safe distribution of sediment, and wide-scale economic benefit to the county. It appears that forecasting the future following a dam removal in other locations has been fraught with precisely the kind of problems that Greenough is concerned about.
It is important for us here locally to understand that initially, the formation of the KKRC was a mechanism to circumvent the federal government’s ability to continue its control over the hydroelectric project owned by Pacific Power. While the loss of clean power, non-fossil fuel power, produced by the dams by their removal seems odd that in a state that prides itself in forcing renewable power on its citizens that hydroelectric power would be dismissed so lightly. In addition to the loss of power, the loss of water to freely flow out to the sea seems to be in even larger conflict with the notion that California’s recent experiences with drought and inadequate water storage infrastructure should cause some hesitation over the loss of any store of water. And finally, in light of past experiences in the lower Klamath with flood control, it would seem unlikely that anyone, if they paused to consider, would willingly sign on to the loss of flood control, no matter how modest, or insignificant the dams provide.
With regard to the restoration of the upper Klamath basin and the years of environmental studies, I suppose most folks are unaware of a former whistleblower for the Department of the Interior, who described those studies as flawed and highly speculative. Naturally, he was quickly removed, transferred from his oversight position and his report buried.
What is not subject to question is the fact that no one really knows what will happen for certainty once the dams are removed, certainly not local fishermen. Sediment from other dam removals has created a number of unintended consequences, which Greenough has every reason to be concerned. Restoration in those same situations has not always gone according to prediction. Economic benefits from dam removal have similarly not proven to be as forecast.
Leaving all that aside, it has been stated in the Triplicate that retrofitting the dams would have a price tag of $300 million. According to the Triplicate’s articles, dam removal would come in at $325 million plus a $122 million fund for unintended consequences. Pacific Power has already siphoned $200 million from the ratepayers for dam removal, and California has committed $250 million taxpayer dollars for the same dam removal from funds meant to improve California’s dire water situation.
Seems to me from looking at the situation from a practical standpoint how can those dollars be used most effectively, would be to retrofit the dams, save at least $25 million dollars over their removal, and allow for the possible restoration for the Upper Klamath Basin, without the
possibility of spending a further $122 million dollars on unintended consequences. Without removal, there would be no sediment issue, no possible contamination from toxic sediment and the $122 million contingency fund could be directed elsewhere, perhaps where it was meant to be, saving water for Californians
While allowing the dams to remain would most certainly offend parts of the environmental community, it would have a much less traumatic effect on the lower Klamath Basin, save millions of dollars, be less disruptive on the economy of the area, allow for the continuation of flood control, renewable electricity, water conservation, and the ultimate goal of restoring the upper Klamath Basin with fewer unintended consequences.
Salmon populations would continue to utilize the river for spawning immediately, including the upper parts of the river without the loss of time due to sediment-laden water.
I, as well as others in the community, continue to be curious as to just exactly why those in representative positions in the city, the harbor, and the county wish for the dam removal process when there is far more to consider than the sediment issue, and impacts on commercial and recreational fishing. It appears in the rush to solve a perceived environmental issue only one solution has been considered. Before the local citizenry commits to this Plan A, perhaps it is important to heed Greenough’s hesitation for this dramatic step, before all the lemmings are pushed over the cliff.
Samuel Strait lives in Crescent City.