Dam removal opponents seek votes
Measures would bar county funds, discourage government support
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Opponents of dam removal on the Klamath River hope to get Klamath County voters to weigh in on the issue.
A petition committee has asked Klamath County's board of commissioners to put an anti-dam removal measure on the county's ballot in November.
If approved, the proposed initiative would prohibit any Klamath County funds or resources from being spent on the removal of four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River.
PacifiCorp, the dams' owner, has agreed to begin taking down the structures in 2020 to restore salmon and steelhead habitat.
The removal plan, which is part of a larger agreement aimed at resolving environmental disputes in the Klamath Basin, is still awaiting final approval from the federal government.
Opponents of dam removal claim the plan would eliminate a needed source of power at great cost to taxpayers and PacifiCorp customers, among other concerns.
The removal project would be paid for with $200 million collected from PacifiCorp rate payers, primarily in Oregon, and $250 million in government bond funding from California.
Though tax money collected by Klamath County isn't expected to be used for dam removal, the proposed initiative would effectively bar county officials from participating in meetings about the plan, said Tom Mallams, a chief petitioner.
California's Siskiyou County will have an advisory initiative about dam removal on the November ballot, said Marcia Armstrong, a member of the county's board of supervisors.
The initiative won't have the power of law, but it will gauge the public's sentiment about the issue and inform U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, who must clear the plan, she said.
"It all influences the secretary's decision," Armstrong said.
Mallams said he wants anti-dam removal measures passed in Oregon's Jackson County and California's Modoc County, which would also be affected by the plan.
The goal is to discourage state and federal government support of dam removal, he said. "Our state and elected officials can't ignore that base."
If Klamath County's board of commissioners does not put the measure on the November ballot, Mallams said he expects his group to collect signatures and get it on the March 2011 special election ballot.