Ag Today, August 23, 2016

Klamath River dam removal plan delayed

 A plan to remove four Klamath River dams to improve water quality and habitat for fish and river communities will likely be submitted to the federal government in September, according to plan proponents.

The plan was originally set to be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by the end of July, but has been delayed in order to address other steps needed to progress it forward.

“Everything is still very much on track in our point of view,” Bob Gravely, a spokesman for the dam-owning company PacifiCorp, said on Thursday. “Our expectation is by the end of next month, it will be filed.”

Signed on by California’s and Oregon’s governors, federal officials, tribal government leaders, environmental groups and PacifiCorp in April, the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) would remove the four hydroelectric dams — Copco 1, Copco 2, Iron Gate and J.C. Boyle — by 2020 in order to improve water quality for fish and downstream water users.

A nonprofit corporation known as the Klamath River Renewal Corporation was created earlier this year to take ownership of the dams from PacifiCorp, but this transfer will also need to be approved by FERC.

The vice president of the nonprofit’s board of directors, Lester Snow, said they are still working to build a relationship with FERC and PacifiCorp in order to ensure a smooth transfer.

“The next big step is for us to actually submit the transfer application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Snow said. “We’re on the verge in the next week of sending a joint letter with PacifiCorp to FERC letting them know when we anticipate submittal.”

There are still other regulatory hurdles the KHSA must clear before it can be put into effect, such as obtaining water quality permits from California and Oregon. Funding agreements are also having to be modified due to the KHSA having originally been written to be approved through Congress. The agreement was originally signed in 2010, but the bill was unable to progress through Congress for over five years due to Republican opposition in the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee.

The $450 million price tag for the dam removal project will be split between PacifiCorp’s ratepayers in California and Oregon, who will contribute $200 million, and California’s Proposition 1 water bond, which will contribute $250 million.

Gravely said the company has collected $116.2 million so far.

If the plan is ultimately approved, dam removal would likely not begin until 2020.

“That’s still down the road a ways but there is a lot of work until we get there,” Snow said.