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Next Chapter in Klamath Dams Saga Opens in California

January 26, 2016

California is beginning its analysis of how three Klamath River hydroelectric dams are affecting water quality.  

The state is in the middle of a series of scoping meetings, providing the public its first official chance to weigh in since the Klamath Basin Water Agreements fell apart at the end of December.    

Federal relicensing of the PacifiCorp dams has been on hold for several years while farmers, tribes, and other groups in the Klamath Basin negotiated a water deal. But when Congress failed to authorize the settlements last term, the signatories backed out.  

Now the relicensing process is moving forward, and both Oregon and California have to sign off on water quality before a federal determination can be made.    

“We have done scoping meetings previously as part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. We are here again,” says Erin Ragazzi of the California Water Resources Control Board. “A lot has changed in the last few years in terms of information that has become available and the status of the settlements.”  

At a public meeting Monday in Arcata, all of the approximately 30 people who spoke favored dam removal. Tribes, fishermen and conservationists have been pushing for this for years to help support Klamath River salmon.  

“We’re at the bottom of this huge hill,” said Scott Greacen, director of Friends of the Eel River.  

At the meeting, he said he is frustrated because the issue of dam removal would have been settled if Congress had acted on the original Agreements. Now the process begins anew.  

“There’s another agency process we have to go through. Working to get the state water board in California to do a hard thing, which is to say no to the dam owner,” Greacen said.  

PacifiCorp owns four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath – three in California and one in Oregon.  The utility says it would prefer to remove them, and is pursuing that option, as well as money to help get it done, with state and federal officials.

But while that is happening, the federal relicensing process is pushing forward.

JPR's Michael Joyce contributed to this report.

Copco no. 2, one of four dams on the Klamath river targeted for removal.

Amelia Templeton

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