By TOM MALLAMS
For the Capital Press
The most aggressive media blitz in the history of Oregon is in progress. This effort reminds me of an overly aggressive obnoxious salesman trying to sell an inferior product to an unsuspecting public.
The dam removal and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement seem to be continually forced along in spite of widespread distrust and opposition.
Now is the time for the public to get involved in exposing the truth and the agendas of many involved in the process. The public must have complete information so it can reach an informed decision.
Most of the media paint a picture of this being a done deal. Not true. Many are counting on building enough momentum in this "process" that it will go forward in spite of major opposition and the cost of dam removal -- billions of dollars -- which we will pay.
A recent article on dam removal stated PacifiCorp costs to upgrade all four dams as being a total of $279 million. Any other costs they may claim are still confidential. All these costs are inflated to make dam removal appear more attractive than fish ladders. They also said the estimated cost of removal is still to be determined.
This is at best a very misleading statement from PacifiCorp. True, additional studies are being done, but two studies have already been completed by the federal government. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission completed a cost study in 2007. And the Department of Interior completed another in 2008. It was kept confidential until it was leaked to the media the day after Senate Bill 76 passed the Oregon Senate last February.
SB76 mandates Oregon ratepayers pay the cost of dam removal. Since PacifiCorp estimates appear to be a worst-case scenario for fish ladders and upgrades, the FERC report estimates, in a worst-case scenario, put total dam removal costs at $4.4 billion. The other report puts costs, in worst-case scenario, over $1 billion.
You do the math! $279 million compared to $4.4 billion. This appears to be a blatant effort to hide the comparisons of dam removal cost versus fish ladder and upgrade costs.
The claim that destroying dams is the only way to save the fish is completely unproven. In fact, history and science indicate that the dams improve fisheries. Dam removal supporters point to algae in the reservoirs, but ignore the historic algae problems in the Klamath River before the dams were built. Some of the largest salmon runs on the river were decades after the dams were built. Science shows the dams cool the water and provide sustained flows in the late summer. The real cause of lower fish numbers is changing ocean conditions and massive unregulated foreign fishing.
Our country seems to be losing its moral compass. As an active informed public, we can direct those in power to get us back on track where our founding fathers intended us to be. It is always a temptation to compromise our values of right and wrong, but our country has compromised to a point that we would not be recognized by our grandparents, let alone our founding fathers.
These agreements attempt to assure project irrigators of water deliveries. The problem is, this so-called "block of guaranteed water" does not magically appear; it will come from off-project irrigators shut off whenever the powers-that-be feel fish or some other endangered organism needs water.
The outcome will affect more than the Klamath Basin. The claim that these agreements will settle the "Klamath water wars" is absolutely false. If adopted, precedents will be set that will greatly affect all of Oregon, including the Rogue Valley, as water law will be changed in these agreements.
Do you think dam removal efforts will stop with the Klamath? Removal efforts in the Columbia and Snake rivers will be pushed even harder.
Affordable, renewable replacement power does not exist to fill the gap if the dams are destroyed. I guess the last person leaving the Klamath Basin won't have to turn out the lights. There won't be any electricity connected to the switch.
Tom Mallams is president of Klamath Off-Project Water Users Association.