Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
P-14803-001 and P-2082-063
The following comments are submitted by the Siskiyou County Water Users Association an association representing those Siskiyou County voters who voted to retain the dams through Measure G voted on during a general election process by 80% as well as members of the R Ranch Complex, KRCE, and Copco Lake. The approximate membership of some 7,000 people.
We wish to first express our dissatisfaction with the Draft EIR which has been submitted by FERC as prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers. The document does not do justice to the issue at hand and indeed has the appearance of a contrived and irretrievably slanted document. Our organization has participated in this process for years submitting countless documents through both this current process as well as the previous process conducted by the Department of Interior which was never completed and that process never achieved support through Congress as required by the U.S. Constitution, Article I Section 10 Clause 3, known as the Compact Clause. When that proved unsuccessful the States of California and Oregon entered into another agreement in 2016 which was used as an avenue to avoid dealing with Congress. That agreement is the underpinning of the current situation with the States becoming co licensees with a third party KRRC, the dam removal entity. As part of the process FERC realized that KRRC had insufficient experience as well as funding and created an unusual situation with allowing the States to agree to underwrite the potential damages resulting from a possible biological disaster. This is a flawed process from the beginning and the resultant Environmental Impact Report reveals the “ignoring” of available scientific evidence which should have been included in the analysis process but evidently was not considered because it didn’t support the already agreed to solution of removal of clean carbon free inexpensive hydroelectric power. The hydro facilities are in excellent condition contrary to the assertion by those who want them removed.
The real culprit in the reduction of Salmon production is not the Klamath dams but a complex combination of ocean conditions, predatory practices, international fishing, and most importantly the flood of 1964 which revamped the hydrology of the rivers both Klamath and Salmon and significantly changed the redds and the tributary systems to the main stem Klamath. That combined with false river signals caused by releasing cold water early in the system by BOR affected the Salmon population. Improving the redds as well as repairing flood damage of the River below the dams would be far more productive and result in less risk associated with removal of the Hydro -electric facilities.
Among the many issues we have raised in our previous documents including the study entitled “Alternatives to Dam Removal” submitted to FERC and which have not been adequately addressed are the following:
· Numerous evidence that the Salmon did not go past Ward’s Canyon except in high water conditions.
o Evidence presented regarding the existence for thousands of years of lava dikes on the Klamath especially at the location of the Copco I dam site as evidenced by J.C. Boyle engineer on the project who noted the height as 135 feet historically. Its existence kept the anadromous Salmon from intermixing upstream with the Red Band Salmon a fresh water fish. Documented in an article in 1913 by Boyle in the Journal of Electricity and Power dated February 22, 1913. This was further documented in Boyles personal comments on the Flow Line at Copco Lake. The comments by FERC staff are disingenuous regarding the lava dikes as they are taken verbatim from statements by KRRC. No attempt is made to verify this incredibly important fact which impacts the validity of the stated goal to increase the production of Salmon.
· Lava Dikes: The Klamath River was frequently obstructed historically by the existence of lava dikes emanating from multiple shield volcanos in the area with a general North South trajectory. The most recent eruption in the area was approx. 600 years ago from Mount Shasta. The EIR EIS indicates that these lava flows are in the order of 12,000 feet thick. Our information is that the lava flows were about 4,000 feet thick.
· Sediment: In other recent dam removal projects the amount of sediment has been seriously underestimated and we feel this project is no exception. The amount of sediment behind the Klamath Dams to be removed or washed downriver based on the other mis estimates could put the amount at 1.5-2 X more or up to approximately 40 million cubic feet. The EIR does not provide or contemplate such an underestimate of the volume of sediment some of which is toxic.
· Red Band Salmon: This unique species of Redband salmonid trout inhabits the upper reaches of the Klamath River, Upper Klamath Lake and Southern Oregon.
The Redband salmonid trout evolved during the Ice Age in large glacial lakes present all over the western part of the United States. As the glaciers receded, most of these lakes dried up. Upper Klamath Lake remains as one of the largest of the glacial lakes left. According to wildlife biologists from Oregon State University, over the last 10,000 years the west has experienced many wet and dry, cold and warm cycles, some warmer than our current extreme weather. These cycles have contributed to the Redband trout’s unique life history strategy. They were frequently mis identified as Salmon due to their size. The wildlife biologist researchers have concluded that the Redband is not replacable. No other trout, for example rainbow, brook, brown, cutthroat, or steelhead can survive in the harsh conditions of Klamath Lake. Additionally, the Redband is resistant to C. Shasta, a common parasite found throughout the basin. The Redband is so unique that wildlife biologists are considering identifying it as a separate evolutionary unit or subspecies. Moreover, the Redband trout has evolved over a wider range of environmental conditions than other salmonid species. They can tolerate temperatures of up to 80 degrees and primarily live on a diet of forage fish and invertebrates and are resistant to C. Shasta and other diseases and parasites. It is the only species of salmon with teeth in its upper jaw and is considered a carnivorous predator by fisheries biologists. This important element is not considered in the EIR EIS draft by FERC and with dams removed would be free to move downstream impacting the habitat.
· Siskiyou County Reserve Water Rights
o Siskiyou County has two reserve water rights totaling 120,000 Ac .Ft. from the Klamath River granted to it in 1956 . These rights are being held by the California Finance Department pursuant to request of the Siskiyou Board of Supervisors.
o These rights were referenced in the previous EIR prepared by Department of Interior in 2012 and were given to the County as a County of Origin and are still valid. They have not been taken into account in the current EIR by FERC.
· Historic Preservation of Ancient Beswick Forest and Cultural Area
o The Ward Canyon area is a unique area of the Klamath River and has been the subject of a number of archeological and cultural studies of Native American sites. No mention is made in the EIR of the Upper Klamath River Stateline Archaeological District or the Beswick District of Siskiyou County. This particular canyon environment provides significant Biome habitats to over 26 unique species. These species are specific to the lakeside environment behind Iron Gate and Copco I hydro facilities. The EIR does not take into account this unique collection of biomes.
· Environmental Justice
o Environmental justice as defined by this section refers to communities and peoples who are low income and/or people of color, who will be adversely affected by the proposed project, in this case the removal of the dams nearby where they live. Environmental justice specifically speaks to community concerns, hardships, and health concerns of said communities, who will be adversely affected and their right to be heard and part of the decision making process. Copco Lake residents and several other communities/citizens along the Klamath River including R Ranch and KRCE are within the dam removal reach and qualify as “environmental justice communities”. They have been speaking out for years and feel that their voices have NOT been heard and their concerns NOT addressed by KRRC and their contractors. This EIR states unequivocally that these communities will experience “disproportionately high and adverse effects by the proposed action”, however the writers of this EIR feel that these adverse effects can be appropriately mitigated for long term gain. We strongly disagree. We feel that the stated effects of dam removal upon geology and soils (slope stability), aquatic habitat and fisheries (in and around the reservoirs), recreation, fire management, aesthetics, and air quality will be irreparably damaged. In addition, should this dam removal project proceed as proposed, not nearly enough money and resources have been set aside to repair the damage caused.
o We believe that the no-action alternative and/or alternate proposals for meeting the agency’s goals have NOT been given enough consideration. The EIR states, “Under the no-action alternative, there would be no change in geology and soils, water quantity, land use, aesthetics, socioeconomics, or air quality and noise compared to existing conditions”. We agree with that statement. However, the EIR goes onto state that “the dams would continue to adversely affect environmental justice communities by changing water quality and decreasing the quality of salmon fishery. The salmon population would likely be severely diminished within several decades due to deteriorating water quality and increased disease incidence.” We strongly disagree with that assessment as explained in other sections of our comments to this EIR. The dams actually improve water quality, not diminish it; they provide the much needed water storage for increased flows during the fall salmon run, and prevent sediment and algae from upstream filling in spawning holes downstream of Iron Gate dam. If the dams are removed, constant sluffing of sediment would be entering the river for years to come.
o The EIR states, “Importantly, the beneficial effects associated with dam removal would outweigh the long term, adverse effects associated with the proposed action with staff modifications.” (Emphasis added). We are not confident that these so called staff modifications as proposed are practical, feasible or economically realistic. KRRC was created to facilitate the removal of the dams, period. Their commitment and economic viability beyond that is highly questionable. We see our community’s concerns tied up in insurance claims or court for years and years to come.
· Cost Estimates: The dam removal cost estimates have been unchanged for more than ten years. Given the substantial inflation we are experiencing these estimates should be increased significantly which has not been evaluated by the FERC Draft EIR.
· Flushing river: We feel inadequate attention has been given to looking at some of the positive aspects of the hydro facilities beyond their value in providing clean carbon free energy on a 24/7 basis. One of these is the necessity of flushing the Klamath during low water periods, a court ordered flushing routine will no longer be able to be followed which will result in a return to the Klamath of its problematic past.
· Fire suppression: As noted in the EIR the lakes are important to fire suppression but according to one observer replaceable. The EIR takes for granted without any substantive investigation that the lakes which are easily accessed by aircraft can be surplanted by “dip” holes in the Klamath. Helicopter pilots will tell you that it is extremely unsafe to be dropping in a narrow river channel to pick up water.
· Delay of flood surge: The reservoirs while not designed to provide flood protection do provide a potential life saving delay in a flood surge allowing notification of those in its path and an opportunity to escape.
· Recreation: The lake system behind the dams provides significant recreation and fishing opportunities and a beautiful setting for those who enjoy the natural scenery presented there and the variety of flora and fauna and unique biomes not found elsewhere. These biomes will be lost forever with removal of the lakes. The staff preparing the EIR seem very committed to kayaks and shooting rapids as a substitute for the tranquility of the current environment.
· Land Values: The citizens of the village communities (Copco, Hornbrook, KRCE and R Ranch) surrounding the lakes have been there for more than sixty years some with life savings invested in their homes. Their property values have been decimated by the uncertainty that they have had to suffer. Now with potential impending draining of the serene lakes they will be deprived of substantial life savings. In a State project which this removal now portends to be there should be substantial damages being paid to the homeowners as well as relocation payments if they choose to relocate. The landowners have not been properly treated in this process. The EIR is devoid of appropriate investigation regarding this behavior and no solution is offered. FERC bears a large share of responsibility along with the States of subjecting this population to this continuing stressful condition
In closing we would hope that FERC would recognize the inequities of the situation and that the most desirable solution would be to keep the hydro facilities in place and recommend that every effort be directed to repair of the habitats below the dams to improve Salmon production by correcting the hydrology of the rivers and tributaries. This would be the most cost effective and least disruptive method to solve the issues confronting all parties.
We would also ask the Commission to consider the numerous times the staff indicated as a common answer to difficult issues that in the near term results would be detrimental to the environment but would heal over time. That time according to the Staff would be fifty (50) years. This is reminiscent of the statement made by Secretary Salazar at a meeting in San Francisco where he indicated that we wouldn’t know the results of this “great experiment” for 60 years. We ask you as citizens who have to live with your failure, is this reasonable?? And, finally we have asked for additional time to respond and have not heard from you and we have asked for a public hearing in Siskiyou County. It seems the least you could do for a project so complicated and filled with potential for disaster would be to come to meet with the people who will suffer from what is billed as the “largest dam removal project in world history.
Project No. 14803-001; Project No. 2082-063
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that the foregoing letter has this day been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and served by email upon each person identified on the official Service List compiled by the Secretary for this proceeding on this 18th day of April 2022.
/s/ Richard Marshall – Chairman, Siskiyou County Water Users Association
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