States join forces for Klamath solutions
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced Thursday that they are directing their respective state agencies to organize a Klamath River Summit to be held before the year ends.
The summit is aimed to resolve a multitude of complex issues related to the health of the river that impact salmon fishermen, tribes, hydroelectric power and a host of environmental and habitat concerns.
A date for the summit will be determined once various schedules can be worked out.
“We have the problems of water quality, water supply, listed species, energy generation and agricultural sustainability expressed in countless ways in the Klamath Basin,” Kulongoski said. “We must forge a consensus on a sustainable approach to the Klamath.”
“Both our states are recognized leaders in protecting our environment,” added Schwarzenegger. “I look forward to working with Governor Kulongoski and his team to develop a plan that will protect these valuable natural resources while balancing our needs as responsible stewards of the environment.”
The summit follows a partnership between Washington, Oregon and California governors, who signed an agreement to create a partnership which would work to protect the entire Pacific coast.
Recognizing the environmental and natural resource challenges within the Klamath Basin, the summit aims to bring all groups with Klamath River Basin interests together, including states, federal partners, fishermen, tribes and PacifiCorp.
To date, resolving Klamath issues has been a challenge because of the interconnected nature of water, energy, fishing, wildlife habitat, tribal land use and farming needs.
PacifiCorp is currently seeking relicensing of its Hydro Project on the Klamath River, while many parties are calling for dam removal and river restoration. At the same time, commercial salmon catch in California and Oregon is expected to drop this year from recent averages, the state and federal lawmakers said in a recent letter to Senate appropriators.
PacifiCorp operates seven hydroelectric generating facilities along 65 miles of the Klamath River from the Link River Dam at Upper Klamath Lake to Iron Gate Dam.
In recent months, PacifiCorp has expressed their willingness to consider dam removal, provided that shareholder property rights and cost recovery issues are appropriately addressed, according to the news release.
According to PacifiCorp testimony, “these and other restrictions cause PacifiCorp to operate the Klamath Hydroelectric Project more for compliance than for generation.
“Making matters worse, return flow from the Klamath customers is unpredictable, unmanaged and often occurs during high-water periods. Each of these factors has negative effects on PacifiCorp’s ability to use the Klamath River to generate hydroelectric power,” according to PacifiCorp testimony.
“In light of PacifiCorp’s characterization of the value, it seems only appropriate that dam removal be explored as part of the discussion and quite frankly, as part of the eventual solution to restore Klamath River health,” said Schwarzenegger.