CA Water Board Slams Klamath Dam owner’s Application for Clean Water Permit

by Dan Bacher September 30th, 2008

State Regulators today announced a plan to evaluate the impacts of dam removal on the Klamath River, but not PacifiCorp’s own proposal for operation, according to a joint news release from the Karuk Tribe, Klamath Riverkeeper and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations.

Dam removal is urgently needed as West Coast salmon populations are in their worst-crisis ever. Salmon fishing in ocean waters off Oregon and California and the Central Valley rivers is closed for the first time in history this year, due to the collapse of the Sacramento River fall chinook salmon run. However, commercial fishermen suffered from severe restrictions off the California and southern Oregon coast two years ago, due to the dramatic decline of Klamath River chinooks. We must restore the salmon runs of both the Klamath and Sacramento rivers so we don’t suffer from more fishery failures in the future.


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CA Water Board Slams Klamath Dam owner’s Application for Clean Water Permit State Regulators announce plan to evaluate impacts of dam removal but not PacifiCorp’s own proposal for operation

Sacramento, CA – Today the California Water Resources Control Board released the Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report on Oregon based PacifiCorp’s proposed relicencing of Klamath River dams. The Water Board will not evaluate PacifiCorp’s own proposal for a status quo dam license which they describe as “not legally feasible” due to federal agencies’ mandatory prescriptions for fish ladders and other mitigation measures.

“PacifiCorp is playing the delay game by repeatedly withdrawing and then re-filing to same illegal plan,” commented Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), a major fishing industry group. “But every day they delay kills more fish, and this has got to stop. Dam removal is the only viable option, and until PacifiCorp gets serious about a dam removal plan we can support, this process must move forward toward dam removal with or without them.”

Instead of analyzing PacifiCorp’s proposal the Water Board plans to consider the following four alternatives: · FERC staff recommendations plus incorporation of the federal agencies mitigation measures including construction of fish ladders

  • Removal of Iron Gate and Copco 1 dams
  • Removal of Iron Gate, Copco 1, and Copco 2 dams
  • Long Term Modifications stemming for a potential settlement agreement among Klamath Basin stakeholders including PacifiCorp

Currently, Federal, California, and Oregon officials are negotiating an agreement to remove the dams with PacifiCorp, however, Tribes, fishermen, farmers, and environmental groups have been excluded from the talks.

“Without the participation of the people that live, work, and raise families here on the River, we have doubts that a meaningful agreement will emerge from these talks,” said Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe. Tucker adds, “the Clean Water Permitting process is critically important. If the Water Board finds that PacifiCorp can’t meet California’s clean water standards with the dams in place, they can’t get the dams relicensed.”

The Federal Clean Water Act gives states the authority to regulate dam owners according to their own clean water standards. PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams create massive blooms of toxic blue-green algae that lead state and tribal agencies to post warnings against contacting the river and reservoirs each summer. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency listed the Klamath River as “impaired” by the toxic algae.

Economic reports from the California Energy Commission as well as FERC conclude that dam removal is actually cheaper for ratepayers than the construction of fish ladders and mandated increases in river flows. Even if the California Water Board issues a Clean Water Permit to PacifiCorp, it will most likely come with another set of mandatory mitigation measures which will drive the cost of relicensing up even more.

According to Klamath Riverkeeper’s Malena Marvin, “these dams are a money pit for rate payers and a death sentence for fish. It’s time for Warren Buffett to tell PacifiCorp to solve this problem by negotiating a dam removal agreement with the Tribes, fishermen, and farmers that live in the Klamath Basin. If he doesn’t he will go down in history as the man who brought poverty, disease, and toxic pollution to one of America’s greatest watersheds.”

For more information: Craig Tucker, Spokesman Karuk Tribe 916-207-8294 Glenn Spain, PCFFA, 541-689-2000 Malena Marvin, Klamath Riverkeeper 541-821-7260

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