Klamath dam removals heavily supported by community

Klamath dam removals heavily supported by community

by Natalya Estrada
The Eureka Times-Standard

January 12, 2017

Close to 100 people showed up to speak for the removal of the four dams on the Klamath River at a public meeting put on by the California State Water Resource Control Board in Arcata on Thursday evening.

The board set out to gather the public’s input on the Clean Water Act application for the dam’s removal, which is part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, signed last spring by the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, California and Oregon, the U.S. Department of the Interior and Commerce, and PacifiCorp.

National resources policy advocate for the Karuk Tribe Craig Tucker said in an earlier statement the agreement to remove the dams last year meant it no longer required congressional approval, but had to go through a permitting process from the Water Board and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

At the meeting Tucker along with Karuk and Yurok tribal members, county officials, environmental agencies and various community members spoke throughout the meeting to encourage the dams’ removal.

“Folks keep coming out,” said Tucker. “We could be talking about basketball right now or we got things going on at home, but these people are here to talk about the Klamath River. It makes me very proud to live in this area and see all these people coming out for this effort.”

According to a news release by the Karuk Tribe, the original settlement agreement, in combination with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, sought to open up 250-plus miles of historic salmon spawning habitat and create a formalized water sharing strategy between the basin’s water users. Additionally, the Klamath River tribes have worked with the federal government, states, irrigators, environmental organizations and PacifiCorp to develop legislation to remove the dams, solve water disputes and finance river restoration for nearly a decade.

Mahlija Florendo, who identified as part of the Yurok, Hoopa and other tribes along the Klamath River, said for thousands of years the river had been sustaining her people and she wanted the river to be accessible and usable for future generations.

“This river is our food for us, it’s our water source. It’s our lifeline and the dams have a great effect on how we live,” Florendo said. “We depend on this river and we haven’t been able to use it as our ancestors did before this dam was here.”

Former Humboldt County 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace also attended the meeting and said that although he cannot speak for the county anymore, he’s worked with organizations to remove the dams since 2006.

“I have to comment on the irony of environmental study for removal of the dams, when none was done for the construction of these dams over the 60-year period,” Lovelace said. “Had there been any kind of environmental impact studies done prior to the construction of these dams, I don’t think these dams would have been built in the first place. The impacts that they’ve created to water quality, to fish, and to the river itself, the fishermen, the tribes is clearly very present.”

Representative for Congressman Jared Huffman, John Driscoll said the permit considered by the board was a key piece in the effort to remove the four dams and restore the Klamath.

“We’ve known for a long time that the reservoirs have severely compromised water quality, which can cause algae blooms which have disastrous effects on the river’s fisheries, recreational and ceremonial uses,” Driscoll said.

He also highlight Huffman’s views on the long term and short term benefits of removing the dams.

The board’s authorization is not the only approval needed. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must also issue a separate permit for the project to move forward, according to Tucker.

“The works already been done, there’s 3,000 pages of peer-reviewed technical analysis that can be drawn on,” Tucker said. “The result of that analysis was the recommendation to remove these dams. We want you to do this in a timely manner, we want to remove these dams by about 2020 so we hope that your process will be consistent with that time line.”