Friday, September 23, 2011

Klamath River dam-removal benefits detailed

Klamath River dam-removal benefits detailed
Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dismantling the four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River would
open up 420 miles of habitat for migrating salmon, create thousands of
jobs and cost less than it would to maintain the reservoirs, a U.S.
Department of the Interior report said Wednesday.
The long-awaited environmental report on what would be the biggest dam-
removal project in California history predicted an 81.4 percent
increase in the number of chinook salmon and similar increases for
steelhead trout and coho salmon.

Opening up the waterway would also eliminate toxic algal blooms, the
report said, and employ 4,600 people during 15 years of work.

The $291.6 million estimated cost of removal is substantially less
than the $450 million worst-case scenario outlined in previous reports.

Upkeep is costly
The cost of keeping the dams open - including federally mandated fish
ladders, water-quality improvements and construction of new
recreational facilities - is in the $400 million to $500 million
range, officials said.

"These results have confirmed that removal of the dams will benefit
the economy by creating jobs, it will benefit the fishery by
increasing productivity, and fishing jobs would increase in the basin
and elsewhere," said Steve Rothert, the California director of
American Rivers, a national nonprofit conservation group.

The environmental document will be used by Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar to make a final decision in March on whether to remove the
dams. The report predicts 49 utility jobs and 14 recreational jobs
would be lost if the dams are removed.

Biggest cost
The biggest cost, most people agree, would be the loss of lakefront
property. The value of 668 parcels is expected to go down, said the
document, which did not specify exactly how much.

"It devalues the property," said Tom Rickard, 74, who moved with his
wife, Lee, into a home on Copco Lake 10 years ago. He said removing
the dams would take away the entire reason he and the other mostly
elderly homeowners live in the area.

"There are probably 100 families on just this one lake, but nobody
listens to us or cares what we think," Rickard said. "We've got 22
acres and at least 2,000 feet of lake frontage. Without the dam there
would be nothing there."

The mighty Klamath, which is a federally protected "wild and scenic"
river, flows 255 miles from Oregon through California to the Pacific
Ocean, draining 12,600 square miles of mountains, forests and
marshlands that some have called the Everglades of the West.

The dams - Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2 and J.C. Boyle - have blocked
salmon migration along the California-Oregon border since the first
one was built in 1909 and have been blamed for much of the historic
decline of chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in the Klamath.

Destructive parasites and blooms of toxic, blue-green algae have
contaminated the water behind the dams during the summer. Water
diversions to cities and for agriculture exacerbated the problem,
according to fishery biologists.

Serious talk of removing the dams began in 2002 after a federally
ordered change in water flow led to the death of 33,000 salmon in the
river. The effort picked up momentum over the past few years after
more devastating declines in the number of spawning salmon.

Some 28 parties, including American Indian tribes, farmers and
fishermen, agreed over the past few years to allow the dams operated
by the utility PacifiCorp to be dismantled beginning in 2020.

Ultimate goal
The ultimate goal is to restore what has historically been the third-
largest source of salmon in the lower 48 states, behind the Columbia
and Sacramento rivers.

The report estimates that 1,400 construction workers would be employed
in removing the dams, and between 70 and 695 farm jobs would be
created as a result of water-supply guarantees.

The projected increase in the number of chinook would be a boon to the
fishing industry, creating 218 annual jobs in the San Francisco area
alone, according to the report.

Customers of PacifiCorp in Oregon and California would be paying an
extra 2 percent per month on their electric bills to cover the cost of
dam removal. PacifiCorp has agreed to pay the first $200 million, and
California will cover any costs above that, according to the removal

-- How you can comment: The draft EIS/EIR and comments link can be
found at

E-mail Peter Fimrite at

This article appeared on page C - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle

More on this topic:

Press release from the tribes:
Opinion piece advocating dam removal:

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