John Ross Ferrara / Wednesday, May 4 @ 4:30 p.m. / Environment, Local Government

Curry County Board of Commissioners Express Interest in Supporting Jackson County’s Request for ‘No Action’ in Klamath Dam Removal Project

                           Today's discussion of supporting Jackson County.

At today’s business meeting, the Curry County Board of Commissioners discussed supporting Jackson County in its efforts to save four hydropower dams lining the Klamath River.

The Jackson County Board sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on March 29, in response to the Environmental Impact Statement published by the FERC in February, which could allow for the physical dam removal process to begin in 2023.

The letter requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission not proceed with the surrender, decommissioning and removal of the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project, which includes the John C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron Gate dams. 

A map of the Klamath River dams.

“We, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, respectfully request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) take no action that would allow the removal of the four dams listed in the Lower Klamath Project,” the letter reads. “The preservation of these dams is vitally important to multiple neighboring counties and their citizens, including Jackson County, Klamath County, and Siskiyou County.”

Extensive research and ensuing legal battles have contributed to the current dam removal process, which is designed to improve water quality and temperature conditions for declining fish populations on the Klamath River. This action is strongly supported by the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, American Rivers Trout Unlimited, Institute for Fisheries Resources and other organizations.

The topic of supporting Jackson County’s letter was presented by Curry Commissioner Court Boice.

“With the droughts and with the water management … just all that’s going on with Oregon and water, this bent to remove some of the water capacity storage, the dams that we have, in the name of saving fish and the science just does not back up their reasons, their rationale, or in my beliefs, the irrationality of doing away with the dams,” Boice said.

Boice mistakenly did not include Jackson County’s letter in today’s agenda packet, and therefore fellow Commissioners John Herzog and Chris Paasch did not have a chance to read the letter prior to today’s meeting. Herzog also admitted that he knows very little about the project. However, the commissioners seemed to support the idea anyway.

“I haven’t read it,” Herzog said. “I think I’m in favor. I’m an opponent of removing dams. I was trying to think of the dams on the Klamath, where are they?”

Boice went on to support Jackson County’s argument that dams are crucial for future firefighting efforts. He also incorrectly surmised that the dams are used for irrigation. The dams are solely used to generate electricity.

“The biggest concern we have is for the agricultural people over there and just irrigation and firefighting,” Boice said. “We’re headed for more and more severe fire seasons until this drought period is over.”

Following Boice’s brief presentation, commissioners agreed to include their support of Jackson County’s dams preservation efforts on next meeting’s consent agenda, which could be approved without additional discussion.

Read the Jackson County Board of Commissioners's entire letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission below:

To Whom It May Concern:

In the matter of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the hydropower license surrender and decommissioning of the Lower Klamath Project No.14803 (Docket No. P-14803-00l) we, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, and thus Jackson County, Oregon, submit the following corriment for the record. We, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, respectfully request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) take no action that would allow the removal of the four dams listed in the Lower Klamath Project, formerly Project No. 2082, now listed for comment under Project No. 14803. The preservation of these dams is vitally important to multiple neighboring counties and their citizens, including Jackson County, Klamath County, and Siskiyou County. All of these counties were at one time (1955) duly appointed as participants and negotiators to the Klamath River Basin Compact. Your EIS letter for comment, dated February 25, 2022, refers to this relationship in reference to the Klamath River Basin Compact in the request for comment.

The scope and nature of the proposed Project is definitively a matter of County concern as the water behind the dams is, and continues to be, a Public Trust resource. Any attempt at dam removal ultimately constitutes a threat to the relative safety of its residents, will harm the local economy, and will negatively affect the overall general welfare of the region. Our region is under constant threat from catastrophic wildfire, and this Project has saved one, or more, of our cities from devastating impacts and unparalleled destruction. This water allowed firefighting responders to use helicopters to dip 500 times in one day to bring a major fire threat under control. Our County recently lost two of our cities to fire, and we MUST continue looking forward to impounded water being of primary concern. Also imperative to note, on March 23, 2022, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners declared a local disaster due to drought (Board Order No. 47-22), as have neighboring counties in our region, due to the significant low-water levels in our waterways, our higher-than-normal temperatures, and below-average precipitation in our County and the region.

The information that you have assembled for distribution to address public input makes and presents a false narrative, and does not address the beneficial use of stored water in these four dams.

“The primary issues associated with license surrender and removal of project works are potential effects on aquatic biota, including Chinook salmon, endangered species act-listed Coho salmon and suckers, and other fish and wildlife species; adequacy of measures proposed to restore vegetation on formerly inundated lands; effects on riverine and reservoir-based recreation; effects on local property owners due to effects on waterfront access, wells, firefighting/prevention, slope stability, reservoir aesthetics, and property values, as well as effects on traffie, emergency response times, air quality, and noise during construction; effects of dewatering on culturally important sites and removal of historic project features; and socioeconomic effects on disadvantaged communities.”

The primary issue is the long-term ability for the people of our region to survive without water. As part of this process, we, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, present that the only logical alternative is the no-action alternative. Your staff recommendations are rejected as it is obvious that they do not reside in the region and are basing their recommendations on information that does not place into consideration the “human cost” of dam removal. The most interesting thing is the concept that is conveyed by information that you present, which is from PacificCorp who has collected hundreds of millions of dollars from its customers. Instead, that money could have addressed the issues and provided tangible solutions for all of us; not just a no-action alternative.

As a local governing body, we, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners must point out that the intrusion of the severely flawed “consensus process” that brings the need for this comment fails to meet the needs of the conditions that are present. The continued presentation of arguments regarding fish populations must be addressed with considerations of salmon mortality in the ocean, mainly in commercial fishing areas off our northwestern coast. Very simply, if a salmon goes to the ocean it must return to spawn; if it dies or is harvested at sea, it cannot return to spawn. Until this aspect of fish population is addressed and solved, the idea of dam removal and, thus, the elimination of the “beneficial use” of stored water for the human population of our region is simply out of the question. 

The first comment from the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on April 27, 2018, was supported by the reply from the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who stated that, “Ifl can be of any further assistance in this or any other Commission matter, please let me know.” We are accepting that offer in communicating our consistent concern for the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens, and we continue to stand for the NO-ACTION option. 




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