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 The voice of California's rivers

Klamath River

Klamath Boyle dam panorama

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FOR will continue the fight for removal of the dams on the Klamath

Friends of the River intends to work to ensure that the Klamath dam removal contemplated by the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA) comes to fruition. We look forward to working with the settlement parties in other arenas to achieve the laudable goal of dam removal and restoration of the Klamath River. Read our letter to the Klamath Settlement Group.

Dam Removal Far Too Uncertain In Klamath Settlement for Friends of the River

February 8th, 2010 - FOR withdraws from the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agrrement (KHSA): (Read the full press release) The KHSA outlines a plan for potential future removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River operated by Oregon-based utility PacifiCorp. FOR is one of the original parties to the settlement negotiations and worked for nearly 5 years alongside PacifiCorp, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and Native American Tribes to reach an agreement that describes possible mechanisms and funding for dam removal and restoration of the river’s once fabled salmon runs. The KHSA, which was released on September 30, 2009, is slated for signing this month. FOR is the largest environmental group to date to decide not to sign the KHSA. 

FOR’s primary focus has been to assure that the final agreement provides the best possible option for removing the dams in a reasonable amount of time.  Conservation Director Steve Evans stated that the final drafted version of the KHSA has so many prerequisites to dam removal, including passage of federal legislation by Congress that will cost taxpayers at least $1 billion, that it will likely never result in the removal of any dams.

“Millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and liberal liability protection for PacifiCorp is simply too much to pay for just the possibility that the dams will be removed,” said Evans. “The settlement partners need to develop an agreement that fairly apportions costs and liability to all partners, including PacifiCorp, and that guarantees dam removal by 2020.”

Steve Evans listed the following additional reasons for FOR’s decision to withdraw from the group and not sign the agreement:

  • Durability – the ability of this settlement to survive is doubtful because of numerous preconditions that must be met before dam removal becomes a likely occurrence. 
  • Inefficient timeline – inevitable lawsuits and the settlement being based on a new, untested regulatory process is a recipe for further delays.
  • Lack of surety – the agreement lacks clear termination points.  Without these, the chances of years of delay with no action are very high.
  • Liability protection, even for negligence – liability provisions remain too broad and immunize PacifiCorp from all liability stemming from operations associated with dam removal.
  • Enforceability – if a party to the settlement breaches an obligation, there are few practical remedies.  So if PacifiCorp decides not to implement “environmentally friendly” interim measures, other signatories cannot sue them.
  • One of the biggest hurdles facing settlement implementation in 2010 will be whether California voters approve a massive $11.14 billion general obligation bond for water projects and programs.  The water bond provides $250 million in public funding to remove PacifiCorp’s hydro dams.

“Few of the concerns voiced by FOR were addressed in the KHSA”, said Kelly Catlett, FOR Hydro Reform Policy Advocate. “We believe passionately in the dam removal goal of the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement, however, there is too much uncertainty that this agreement will ever produce that goal.”

September 2009 Update: The Oregon-based utility PacifiCorp, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and Native American Tribes are releasing a draft settlement agreement on Wednesday, September 30 that could lead to the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River and restoration of the river’s once fabled salmon runs.

But the defining characteristic of the complex 130-page agreement is “could.”

“Although an important step towards restoration of the Klamath River, the draft settlement provides little certainty that PacifiCorp’s fish-killing and polluting dams will be removed by the proposed target date of 2020,” said Steve Evans, Conservation Director of the California-based statewide river conservation organization Friends of the River.

“It’s going to take a lot more work and effort by all parties to ensure that the dams are actually removed and the Klamath River salmon are restored in our lifetime,” Evans said.

In addition to failing to guarantee removal of the Klamath River dams, Friends of the River noted that the draft settlement provides broad liability protection for PacifiCorp against future lawsuits (even in circumstances where PacifiCorp could be negligent), and will rely on the multi-million dollar appropriations from the State of California and the federal government to implement dam removal and river restoration.

“California budget cuts have caused drastic cutbacks in public safety, health, education, and environmental programs. It doesn’t seem possible that the state will have the money any time soon to help implement the restoration project,” Evans said.

Despite its flaws, Friends of the River will seriously consider signing the proposed settlement agreement.

“If we don’t sign the agreement, we won’t be at the table to protect the public interest and advocate for swift removal of the dams,” Evans said.

Read the Klamath Agreement youself, by clicking here (pdf).

Read about FORs concerns regarding the recent Agreement, by clicking here (pdf).

It is complicated, click here to see the Klamath Settlement Flow Chart, by clicking here (pdf).


The Christian Science Monitor
Klamath River dam-removal project will be world’s biggest
Wednesday's agreement to tear down four Klamath River dams took years to reach. But it’s a costly project, and there may be more conflicts ahead.

By Michael B. Farrell  |  Staff writer/ September 30, 2009 edition
Many environmental groups greeted Wednesday’s draft agreement to tear down four dams and restore the Klamath River along the California-Oregon border with a healthy degree of skepticism. Read more.


The Devil is in the Details

April 2009 Update:  The Agreement in Principle (AIP), unveiled November 2008 (and introduced in the last issue of Headwaters), proposed a structure to resolve the environmental, cultural, recreational, and economic issues surrounding the restoration of the Klamath River. The problem? The suggested path does not necessarily lead to damremoval; it stops short with many hurdles to overcome. Friends of the River has remained focused on the removal of the damaging hydropower Klamath dams. Ourmission to protect and restore California rivers is focused on creating new avenues and discouraging compromises that do not lead to river restoration—all in an effort to guarantee the Klamath issues will be resolved in a positive, timely, and lawful fashion.

For instance, the StateWater Board recently decided to continue with its water quality analysis for the Klamath River under the federal CleanWater Act. Friends of the River and a few others had opposed a request to delay this environmental review for another fivemonths, instead advocating for continued pressure tomake improvements so that the final agreement the StateWater Board echoed all the points raised by FOR, and upheld their own agency responsibility to restore water quality on the Klamath River.

In addition, Friends of the River is urging the new federal Administration to take a hard look at the AIP process and other Klamath issues. After thorough review, FOR hopes that the federal government follows President Obama’s call for good science, proper regulatory oversight, and government responsibility. FOR has sent letters to Secretary Salazar at the Department of the Interior, and will continue to push for an appropriate level of state and federal involvement in this important environmental issue. Friends of the River is putting a clean and healthy Klamath River first by fighting for the environment both in private negotiations and through the regulatory process. We will continue to do so until the hydropower dams are removed and the environment is restored.M

Klamath “Agreement In Principle” Does Not A Dam Removal Deal Make

November 13, 2008 Update - Federal and state agencies have negotiated an agreement in principle with PacifiCorp that could eventually lead to the removal of four hydroelectric dams and the restoration of the Klamath River’s once bountiful runs of salmon and steelhead. The actual agreement did not become available to all Klamath settlement stakeholders until the afternoon of November 12 when members of the Klamath Settlement Group received a briefing from state and federal officials and PacifiCorp. The agreement has not been approved by numerous other stakeholders, including Friends of the River, who have been involved in the federal relicensing of the Klamath River hydro dams for several years. It remains purely a product produced and endorsed by a sub-set of parties.  In summary, the “non-binding” agreement in principle could lead to the removal of the dams sometime after 2020 if a number of conditions are met.

Although Friends of the River believes that a concession in writing from PacifiCorp to remove the dams is a step in the right direction, we have significant concerns about the workability of the agreement in principle. Foremost, the agreement in principle has so many prerequisites that MUST occur before dam removal can happen that it would likely never result in the removal of any dams. To learn more, click here.


River of Renewal Logo

"River of Renewal" examines the water and wildlife crisis in the Klamath Basin—a bioregion as large as Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire combined. The communities that harvest food from the Klamath Basin—raising crops and cattle, catching salmon in the river and offshore—have all suffered due to the lack of enough water to serve the needs of irrigation and fisheries alike.  This film takes a journey to the Klamath Basin to reexamine the water issues. 

The DVD Solving the Klamath Crisis depicts the common ground reached among farmers and environmentalists, tribes and fishermen, over tearing down the dams and restoring the Klamath River. View excerpts below.

Part 1

Part 2

Toxic algae in the Klamath reservoirs

Additional Information:

FOR has been working on the Klamath project since the relicensing process began in 2000. Check out our Salmon for Savings campaign.

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