Klamath dams provide precedent for Snake River dams
Rex Cozzalio, 3rd generation rancher at Hornbrook, Ca on
the Klamath River.
Snake River ag stakeholders (Miller) comment on Klamath
Regarding the Nov. 18 article, “Snake
River ag stakeholders comment on Klamath dam removal.”
It may be understandable but
unfortunate that those defending their own home will try to
distance themselves from others targeted for destruction,
pretending they are “too different” to be at risk.
Mr. Miller of Northwest River Partners
believes “anyone who goes beyond the headlines” will
recognize that the Klamath decision won’t have implications
for the Snake River dams. Sadly, that statement would
indicate Mr. Miller has only read the special interest media
As the largest proposed project
destruction in the known world, the Klamath may be on a
smaller scale, but is directly related and currently cited
by the same special interests as the “precedent” for
“rewilding” on the Snake.
The Klamath Project is intrinsic to
our entire region, and it is only through its symbiotic
managed optimization of holistic benefits in our
historically highly variable transitional climate zone that
our area has been made sustainable for all beneficial uses,
particularly environmental. Sound familiar?
Despite rhetoric otherwise, Klamath
dams were approved with no anadromy fish passage by agencies
over a 100 years ago because anadromy was never known in
significant numbers above the present dams, supported by
extensive evidence including salmon returns to the upper
region indicating no negative overall impacts and recent
archeological digs of over 15,000 fish bones proving that
fact covering at least 8,000 years.
The “already paid for existing”
Klamath power generation facilities in excellent condition
is the least expensive, most cost effective, renewable,
demand-responsive power possible serving over 70,000 homes
central to our rural area infrastructure and vital to
regional power stability and reliability.
The deep water lakes created by them
provide the only current known significant downstream
improvement of upstream water quality. Mr. Miller’s
“comparison” of a grossly underestimated 10-year-old “cost”
to “blow” the Klamath to an estimated total “replacement
value” of dam provided benefits on the Snake is illogical or
intentionally misleading, as the historical documentation,
area specific experience, and current empirical science
places the “replacement value” of Klamath Project-provided
regional environmental and economic sustainability
“benefits” as fiscally and holistically irreplaceable. That
regional loss would be permanent, “just” as it would be on
Pacific Power was never in support of
destruction, until agencies and special interests threatened
and bribed them into submission, with the current owner
transferring title before imposed massive acknowledged
“unavoidable and unmitigated” damages occur.
The same rewilding agenda special
interests targeting the dams have already been executing
piecemeal assault on project symbiotic regional
sustainability for decades in the Upper Klamath, directly
resulting in unaccountable statistical decimation of the
only two species used as the “modeled justification” for
“rewilding” confiscation and regional devastation. Decades
old “modeled” justifications for
confiscation-without-compensation imposed in Upper Klamath
miserably failed “restoration experiments” are the same
“models” being used to “determine” current Project dam
destruction claimed “benefits.”
Meanwhile, the past decade of
specifically applicable empirical studies and data directly
refuting destruction “benefits” and predicting permanent
damages have been pointedly ignored at special interest
Under the current FERC approved
“agreement” terms, if not reversed, agencies and special
interest signatories have created a “process” whereby they
compelled a quasi-public entity to relinquish its assets and
resources; effectively exclude the most impacted officially
voting regional supermajorities in opposition; are held
personally harmless for the damages they impose;
unilaterally confiscate the funds for destruction from
unrepresented and unwilling ratepayers/taxpayers suffering
the consequences of that destruction; have virtually no
accountability for mitigating the vast majority of damages;
disappear after completed destruction or the money runs out,
whichever occurs first; and personally benefit regardless of
destruction outcome. In fact, the worse the environmental
outcome, the more the Agencies and special interest
signatories gain in future increased funding and
If that isn’t a “precedent” model for
future unaccountable destruction … what is?
Regional stakeholders are mixed on
whether federal regulators’ decision to breach four dams on
the Klamath River has any bearing on future arguments to
breach dams on the lower Snake River.
The Federal Energy Regulatory’s
Commission (FERC) decision is “disappointing,” but the
Klamath dams serve “distinctly different purposes,” said
Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington
Association of Wheat Growers.
“The Snake River provides significant
power generation for the region and is an important
transportation route for agriculture and other goods,”
Hennings said. “Similar action on the Snake River would be
even more problematic and disruptive to the economy of
WAWG will continue to monitor impacts
of the decision, Hennings said.
Northwest RiverPartners, which serves
not-for-profit community-owned electric utilities in the
region, said the decision to remove the Klamath River dams
has no bearing on the Snake River dams.
“Our organization doesn’t support dams
for dams’ sake,” executive director Kurt Miller said. “Every
dam is different.”
RiverPartners has known for some time
that the Klamath dams were likely to come out, he said.
“They were literally walls in the
river,” he said. “Those are dams we didn’t see any reason to
support preserving. It was clear the owner of the dams
(thought) they were expensive and were not providing very
much electricity. For them to be upgraded to provide fish
passage would have cost them a lot of money.”
PacifiCorp owns the Klamath River
FERC only acts on requests from
licensees, and does not initiate any such actions of its
own, said Mary O’Driscoll, director of the media relations
division for the regulatory commission. Any proposal for dam
breaching would have to come from a licensee.
The Snake River dams are owned and
operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congressional
authorization would be needed for the Army Corps to pursue
breaching the dams.
The Snake River dams are “almost the
exact opposite” of the Klamath River dams, Miller said.
“The only thing they really have in
common is that there is four of each of them,” he said. “The
lower Snake River dams are the perfect example of dams you
want to keep.”
The lower Snake River dams produce up
to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, while the Klamath dams
produce closer to 100 megawatts, Miller said.
The Klamath dams have no fish passage,
while the Snake River dams have “the most advanced fish
passage systems in the world” and pass juvenile fish “at the
same rate as a free-flowing river,” Miller said.
Miller understands that some in the
Klamath River community are concerned about the dams being
“The litmus test that we use is, is
the dam providing value to society, because dams do change
ecosystems, so for a dam to exist, it needs to provide value
to society,” he said.
The Klamath dam demolition proposal
has a price tag of $500 million. Miller said it speaks to
the value of the Snake River dams that the price of removing
them would be “100 times higher.” A recent federal and
Washington state report estimated it would cost at least
between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion to replace all the
benefits of the Snake River dams.
Miller believes “anyone who goes
beyond the headlines” will recognize that the Klamath
decision won’t have implications for the Snake River dams.
“Obviously there are some anti-dam
activist groups that will want to use them as an example,”
he said. “But we try to call those groups out politely. If
you get past the initial talking points, they’ll acknowledge
they’re not the same dams.”
Others worry that breaching the
Klamath dams opens the door to further breaching.
“This is setting the precedent — I
think this would make having a conversation around the Snake
River more difficult if they did find a way to breach any
other dams,” said Chandler Goule, CEO of the National
Association of Wheat Growers. “You lose one dam, I think you
could start losing them all.”
The Klamath Basin is important for
irrigation in the dry region, Goule said. He also stressed
the importance of the entire river transportation system,
including the Columbia-Snake and the Mississippi River, for
The U.S. should use infrastructure
funding to update the systems, Goule said.
“This breaching dams conversation
needs to stop,” he said.
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