Matt Cox

I was glad to see Samuel Strait weighing in on Klamath Dam removal (Coastal Voices: Greenough Right to Pump Breaks on Dam Removal), as the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) has actively engaged the public on the project for more than a year and welcomes public input.

Unfortunately, he asserted several inaccuracies but did provide a good opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions.

KRRC was not created to circumvent federal control over the dams. KRRC was created to implement dam removal as agreed to in the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), to which Oregon, California, PacifiCorp, tribes, and the federal Department of the Interior, among others, are signatories. Indeed, the KHSA removed the project from a political process in Congress and placed it squarely within the standard process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Instead of special treatment by elected officials, Klamath dam removal is subject to precisely the same scrutiny and regulation as any other hydropower project subject to FERC jurisdiction.

These dams produce less than 2 percent of PacifiCorp’s power portfolio. PacifiCorp has 70 power plants interconnected on its grid, no reliability concerns in the region, and no concerns about replacing the power from the dams.

The author worries that post-dam removal, water will flow freely into the ocean, and that dam removal will affect flood control. Initial flows into the Klamath River are controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation through releases from Upper Klamath Lake. Flows increase as the river receives additional water from other rivers (such as the Shasta, Scott and Trinity) and the watershed. Those factors determine flows into the ocean and will not change with a free-flowing Klamath. The dams were not built to create multipurpose water storage or to provide flood control, but simply as a mechanism to spin hydroelectric turbines.

The California Public Utilities Commission determined dam removal is in ratepayers’ best interest. Estimated compliance costs for minimum, known requirements for attempted relicensing are $400 million but could be much higher. PacifiCorp ratepayers would be liable for all costs over the entire period of the license. Dam removal caps customer costs at $200 million.

As to sediment, the State Water Resources Control Board’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), which offers a comprehensive review of the dam removal project’s potential impacts, states that sediment in the year the dams come out “…would be similar to the quantity of sediment transported by the Klamath River to the Pacific Ocean in a year with average flow, much less than that transported by the Klamath River in a wet year, and greater than that transported by the Klamath River in a dry year….”

That same DEIR states “…dam removal would advance the long-term restoration of natural fish populations in the Klamath Basin, including having a significant beneficial effect on commercial fisheries and an associated significant beneficial economic impact on the coastal commercial fishing industry….”

That speaks directly to the future of Crescent City where salmon fishing has all but disappeared, putting a strain on a historically essential industry, pinching government budgets and destroying family fishing operations. A rehabilitated fishery is good news for the fishermen, their families, and Crescent City businesses.

Dam removal can appear concerning without the right information but it’s easy to support when the facts are clear. Dam removal is less expensive than relicensing for Del Norte County ratepayers. It does not affect power supply, materially weaken flood control, lead to more water flowing to the ocean, or to unusual sediment loads.

Removing the dams revitalizes the river, increases salmon and steelhead stocks, invigorates the Crescent City commercial and recreational fishing industries, and sends a surge of economic activity through the region.

We are pleased that the Crescent City Council voted 4-1 to submit a letter of support to the State Water Resources Control Board and believe a free-flowing Klamath River will reward their constituents for decades to come.

Matt Cox is director of communications for Klamath River Renewal Corporation.