Let science guide dam removal, professors say

Let science guide dam removal, professors say

Article on professors Jeffrey Mount and Peter Moyle’s letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about Klamath dams.

By Peter Sleeth
December 09, 2007


Two leading scientists from the University of California are urging more studies of dam removal on the Klamath River before taking out any dams.

In a Nov. 16 letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, professors Jeffrey Mount and Peter Moyle urged a group negotiating with PacifiCorp for dam removal to first do the science before letting go the wrecking ball.

“. . . The impacts of dam removal will be lost if the proposed removal of hydropower dams on the Klamath River is not performed within an appropriate scientific framework,” wrote Mount and Moyle.

Both men said they favored dam removal.

Mount and Moyle are the director and associate director, respectively, of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Both are widely known and respected experts on aspects of the Klamath Basin.

Their letter was addressed to Steven Thompson, manager of California operations for the fish and wildlife service. Thompson is leading the settlement talks among government agencies, fishermen, Native American tribes, farmers and others supporting dam removal. Their negotiations parallel a government relicensing process for the dams, which are owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp.

If the members of the settlement talks can get PacifiCorp to agree to dam removal, and then persuade the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to go along, the removal could occur. If it does, it would be “unprecedented in size and scope” in the nation’s history, the professors said.

“Simply put,” the two wrote, “a science program is needed that is transparent, independent, peer-reviewed where possible, and focused on the major uncertainties associated with how and when to remove the dams.”

Others involved in the talks said they were largely in agreement with the letter.

“We feel confident we know enough right now to propose dam removal,” said Craig Tucker of the California-based Karuk Tribe. “It’s not like we’re going to start taking dams down next year.”

Steve Rothert, with American Rivers, agreed that more science will be needed before actual removal.

“I believe we know enough now to propose dam removal and enter into studies that would broaden the information base,” he said.

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