Jan. 30, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Steve Rothert, American Rivers, 530-277-0448
Curtis Knight, California Trout, 530-859-1872
Chuck Bonham, Trout Unlimited, 510-528-4164
Kelly Catlett, Friends of the River, 916-442-3155, ext 223
Sacramento, CA – Today the United States Departments of the Interior and Commerce stood strong on the Klamath River and filed their final, joint fishway prescriptions for the relicensing of PacifiCorp’s dams and hydroelectric facilities on the Klamath River with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“These prescriptions represent the necessary requirements to ensure that – if the hydroelectric dams remain in the river – salmon and steelhead will once again for the first time since 1918 swim free in the upper Klamath River basin,” said Chuck Bonham, of Trout Unlimited. PacifiCorp’s FERC license for the dams expired on March 1, 2006. The existing license contains no provision for fish passage.
In March 2006, the Interior agencies – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management – and the Commerce agency – NOAA Fisheries Service – filed their preliminary draft fishway prescriptions with FERC. PacifiCorp, the owner and operator of the hydroelectric dams, promptly filed an administrative challenge under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, triggering a costly and mammoth litigation process. PacifiCorp challenged the validity of the fishway prescriptions. In an unprecedented effort during the first ever such trial under the Energy Policy Act, the federal government, Tribes, conservation organizations, and commercial fishermen went to court in Sacramento in the summer of 2006 to defend against the company’s attacks. At the end of August 2006, an Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of the parties supporting the agency fishway prescriptions and against PacifiCorp on almost all counts (see http://www.fws.gov/yreka/P2082.htm  for documents).
“At every turn, PacifiCorp has elected to argue against fishway prescriptions, and at every turn they have been rejected by agencies, judges, and the federal government,” said Steve Rothert, of American Rivers.
PacifiCorp also utilized a second provision of the Energy Policy Act to promote less protective options to facilitate fish passage around its dams. The company proposed a long-term program of trapping the fish and hauling them around the dams in trucks. The Secretaries rejected this alternative and concluded it was less protective than Interior and Commerce’s joint proposal for fish ladders at each of dams.
“Thankfully, the half-baked idea of putting fish in trucks to get around dams went nowhere with Interior and Commerce,” said Curtis Knight, of California Trout. “One need only look to the Columbia River Basin to see the flaws in that approach.” The agencies’ joint and final prescriptions include volitional fish passage measures, upstream and downstream, for PacifiCorp’s Iron Gate Dam, Copco I and Copco II, and J.C. Boyle Dams. The final prescriptions provide an approach that is less costly for downstream passage at Copco and more flexible for determining an engineering approach to spillway modifications.
The information is mounting in support of bold solutions in the Klamath River basin for salmon. A joint study by the California Energy Commission and the Department of the Interior released November 2006 shows that removing PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams and replacing their power would save PacifiCorp ratepayers up to $285 million over 30 years. Relicensing the dams, which would include the installation of fish ladders and other measures, would reduce generation by 23% and cost between $230 million and $470 million in 2005 dollars. In contrast, the decommissioning option, which includes removing four hydropower dams and replacing the power for 30 years, could cost between $152 and $277 million. In its Draft Environmental Impact Statement released September 25, 2006, FERC concluded that relicensing the project would cost PacifiCorp ratepayers $28 million more each year than retiring the project and finding an alternative power source.
As Kelly Catlett, of Friends of the River, remarked, “This filing continues the momentum toward the inevitable. The fishermen want the dams removed. So do the Tribes, the federal agencies, and the state of California.”