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PacifiCorp continues with dam removal preparations

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Projects funded by company under way despite challenges


By TIM HEARDEN


Capital Press


Hydroelectric facility operator PacifiCorp is moving forward with preparations to remove four dams from the Klamath River despite plenty of political and logistical challenges.


During a planning meeting for the massive dam removal and Klamath Basin restoration project Feb. 24 in Klamath Falls, Ore., the company offered updates on some 21 interim measures it has been taking.


Among those activities, PacifiCorp on Feb. 15 made its third payment of $510,000 into the Coho Enhancement Fund, which has paid for numerous habitat and stream flow improvements to the river and its tributaries.


Using funding from PacifiCorp, researchers are continuing to study fish diseases as they relate to water quality and habitat, and they'll present results from their first year of monitoring during a workshop March 22 in Fortuna, Calif.


Numerous other studies and pilot projects are under way, including testing of an environmentally safe algaecide in reservoir water and development of a water quality accounting and tracking framework.


"All of the activities that the parties have committed to are under way and on schedule," said Ed Sheets, facilitator of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council.


The council was formed as part of the agreement announced a year ago that aims to supply sufficient water for fish, farms and tribes in the basin, which straddles the Oregon-California state line. The council includes representatives from all of the pact's signatories.


In other business, the council:


* Set up a work group to review cost estimates and set priorities for implementing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The move was driven by the push in Congress to control spending, Sheets said.


* Heard an update on development of a long-awaited drought management plan, which is now set to be unveiled during the council's April meeting in Fortuna, Sheets said.


* Acknowledged that the California Public Utilities Commission last week issued a preliminary order finding that removal of the dams would be in ratepayers' interest.


PacifiCorp's preparation efforts come as the company last month resolved its concerns over government plans to reduce flows so that a key irrigation reservoir could fill. The company remains uncertain whether reduced power production could force a delay in dam removal.


Meanwhile, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives stripped $1.9 million for Klamath River dam removal studies from a stopgap federal spending measure. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has vowed to restore the funding in the Senate version.


The amendment by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., didn't come up during the council meeting, Sheets said. But council member Glen Spain, northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, said afterward it could disrupt the process.


"The studies are going forward and they need to go forward," he said Feb. 28. "Efforts to undercut or short-circuit the science process are shortsighted at best. Everyone from the Farm Bureau to Siskiyou County ... has requested that we have better information through the best available science. Stopping that process is a disservice to everyone."




Online


Klamath Basin Coordinating Council: http://www.edsheets.com/Klamathdocs.html


Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement: http://klamathrestoration.gov



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