Removal of the four hydroelectric dams is the first crucial step to restore the health of the Klamath River and the communities that depend upon it.
Benefits to Ratepayers
The state utility commissions in both California and Oregon have determined that successful implementation of the amended Klamath Hydroelectric settlement Agreement (KHSA), which includes dam removal as well as cost and liability protections for customers and PacifiCorp, is in the best interest of ratepayers.
The California Public Utility Commission found in 2010, and reaffirmed in 2016, that “Through the use of the KHSA cost cap, ratepayers are protected from the uncertain costs of relicensing, litigation, and decommissioning that customers may be responsible for sans the KHSA. If the KHSA surcharge is not instituted, the KHSA may be terminated, and ratepayers would then be exposed to an uncertain amount of costs in addressing what to do with PacifiCorp’s Klamath assets.”
The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) concluded: “We are persuaded that continued pursuit of the relicensing option would pose significant risks to ratepayers…The KHSA in contrast, offers a more certain path for the Project’s future… Due to significant tangible and intangible benefits associated with the KHSA, we conclude it is in the best interest of customers and find the KHSA surcharges to be fair, just and reasonable.” OPUC Docket No. No. UE-219, Order No. 10-364 at 12 (Sept. 16th, 2010.)
If PacifiCorp were to seek a new license, the company would be required to meet obligations imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or other agencies with jurisdiction (U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, etc.) regardless of cost. This includes one-time and ongoing costs associated with relicensing conditions or decommissioning outside the terms of the amended KHSA, as well as for modified or new conditions that agencies have the authority to require in the future. For example, if a new species is listed or there are new requirements under the Endangered Species Act, that could trigger additional requirements. Customers ultimately pay the cost of PacifiCorp’s compliance with those conditions and regulations.
It’s a question of capped, predictable costs with dam removal versus uncapped, unpredictable costs if the dams stay in place and either have to be decommissioned outside the KHSA or have to meet future, yet-unknown government requirements.
KRRC’s direct activities in the Klamath Basin, including dam deconstruction and restoration work, will create a few hundred jobs in the Klamath Basin. KRRC and its contractors have worked with local chambers, economic development agencies and tribes to ensure local companies are aware of opportunities and have ample time to prepare and train workers. Indirectly, KRRC’s expenditures in the Basin are expected to stimulate creation of more than a thousand jobs in support industries such as food service and other support industries. Long term, healthy salmon runs would add an estimated 450 jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing industries in Oregon and California.
Strengthened Commercial and Recreational Fishing Opportunities
Klamath salmon support commercial fisheries worth $150 million per year and a local recreation industry that contributes millions to the Klamath Basin economy. Water quality and fisheries improvements will substantially reduce the risk of fishery disasters, such as the complete commercial closure of 2006, which cost more than $100 million in economic losses. Improved fisheries will benefit commercial and recreational fishermen alike.
The KHSA benefits the public as a whole by reducing public spending on disaster relief. Over the past ten years, hundreds of millions in public dollars has been spent on emergency measures for fishermen, tribes, and farmers in response to rotating Klamath crises. Implementing the KHSA is one piece of the broader solution to resolve the root causes of these problems.
Dam decommissioning will improve the habitat and health of fisheries by allowing salmon, steelhead, and lamprey access to over 400 stream-miles of historic spawning habitat upstream of the dams. Decommissioning will also prevent stagnant reservoirs from increasing water temperatures in the summer and help alleviate the poor habitat conditions that contribute to fish diseases below the dams.
Klamath dams trap nutrient rich waters in shallow reservoirs. The result is massive blooms of toxic blue-green algae that pose a threat to wildlife and human health. The algae blooms also trap heat and deplete oxygen, further degrading water quality. Restoring the river will eliminate the reservoirs associated with algae blooms and improve water quality that will benefit the region’s wildlife, recreation, economy, and health.
Other Benefits for Local Communities
Native American Communities
There is a direct correlation between health of the Klamath River and health of the people who have for centuries depended on the river. Native American tribes in the Klamath Basin have depended on fisheries for their livelihood, health, and cultural practices since time immemorial. In recent years, poor river conditions have led to the diminished harvest allocations and fish kills. Restoration of the river will improve the lives, health, and economic well-being of those dependent on the river.
The hydroelectric dams that KRRC proposes to remove do not provide irrigation diversions for agriculture. Not a single farm, ranch, or municipality diverts water from the four reservoirs that are slated for removal. The facilities are operated for the sole purpose of generating power, and removing the dams will not affect any current water right.