Samuel Strait

While I most certainly appreciate the time and effort that has gone into Matt Cox’s parsing, dismissing and generally omitting any form of opposition to the KRRC’s stated purpose of dam removal on the Klamath River, it also should be made clear that his job as the director of communications for the Klamath River Renewal Corporation is to present any and all information for the stated goal of dam removal in the best light possible.

To begin, he takes exception to my characterization of the formation of the KRRC as a mechanism for circumvention of the legislative process of the federal government. The fact that the federal government failed to take up proposed legislation in 2012 aimed at the Klamath River dams removal is missing in Cox’s facts. This legislation, in spite of approval by then-Secretary Ken Salazar of the Department of the Interior failed and Cox feels that these efforts should be dismissed in his rendition of the facts. Cox proceeds to list the signators of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, none of which have any legislative authority, concluding with the statement “removed the project from a political process in Congress and placed it squarely within the standard process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission”, as if the FREC was also some sort of legislative body and this was anything other than a standard process.

In any event, Congress was widely considered circumvented, or as Cox has suggested “removed from the project” by all of the involved parties including those that supported dam removal. While there is much more to the tale, I would hope that Cox recognizes that the initial effort spearheaded by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon with massive support from environmental activists attempted to secure dam removal legislatively prior to the formation of the KRRC and it was unsuccessful.

As far as the electrical output of the Klamath river dams, Cox has chosen to characterize it as 2 percent of Pacific Power’s entire inventory rather than use something that most people can readily identify with, say 160 Megawatts or enough power to supply a small city of 70,000 households, or even the entire power consumption of Del Norte County a couple of times over. The point of referencing the electrical production of the dams was to highlight their renewable energy component in a state, California, that is attempting to reduce its carbon footprint by eliminating fossil fueled energy sources, not eliminating currently existing supplies of renewable energy supplied by the dams.

Moving on, the next thing that Cox chooses to enlighten us about is the fact that the reservoirs were constructed for the purpose of providing hydroelectric power and not water storage. I don’t know how to break it to Cox but water storage whether its meant to be storage for drinking water, irrigation, recreation, or even the production of electricity, it is still water storage. In a state that has been subject to water shortages for years, and is currently heavily dependent on the Colorado River to make up the shortfall, it doesn’t seem particularly prudent to eliminate any potential source. California currently has an aging water system that is unable to provide enough water for its 40 million people. The system was only designed for 20 million and should, heaven forbid, Arizona were to decide to no longer fuel California’s thirst for water, well, I will leave that to your imagination.

I could stumble on through the rest of Cox’s facts about costs for retrofitting the dams, sediment flows, economic prospects, the right information and most other benefits that he alludes to, but the thing that most concerns me is what he doesn’t talk about. For that purpose, I’d like to introduce another character to this audience.

Following the United States’ emergence into the 21st Century it came to pass that government funding for science and government science as well had began to experience an increasing number of failures, primarily in the realm of environmental science and the public had begun to notice.

As such, in 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation hired a well respected scientist, Paul R. Houser, to be its science advisor and scientific integrity officer. Part of his job was to ensure the scientific veracity, honesty, reliability and reproducibility of the agency’s scientific conclusions and publications. One of Houser’s initial projects was to review the reports from the Bureau’s Klamath River dam removal project.

Houser found that the reports regarding restoration following dam removal to be faulty, heavily bias towards dam removal, lacking in real science and wildly speculative. Not much there to inspire dam removal.

He further recommended a more prudent approach to the project and the inclusion of research largely ignored which showed far less natural restoration possible following the removal of the dams, a distinct lack of attention to factors other than the dams for the reduction of salmon populations, sediment issues far in excess of the year or two being proposed, the need for a relatively long term and expensive human led intervention in the restorative process and a whole host of related problems. It seems that retrofitting the dams, a regularly applied solution for previous restoration purposes, was hardly considered.

If Houser was the only scientist connected to the project that had profound reservations about the scientific conclusions, perhaps that might be considered but that was not the case. When Houser presented his findings, he was transferred and removed from the project along with eight other scientists who were not on board with dam removal. This could become a very long recitation of Houser’s findings but suffice it to say, at least for myself and others in the community, I am not overly secure in the knowledge that dam removal is the best scenario for Del Norte County’s people. Once the dams are removed, we and Siskiyou County will be faced with what ever comes.

Precisely why a more measured approach, dam retrofitting. might just be the more inspired path to take.

As I said, Councilman Jason Greenough was wise to have some concerns for the project, which clearly has the prospects for much greater pain for Del Norte and Siskiyou Counties. If restoration and the improvement of the salmon populations in the Klamath River are the goals of this project it appears that there is much more work to be done. I would also invite Cox to become aware of the findings of Houser, that is if he is not already aware.

Samuel Strait lives in Crescent City.