Water board mulls PacifiCorp project
YREKA - The California State Water Resources Control Board is holding meetings to determine whether PacifiCorp's Klamath Hydroelectric Project can meet water quality requirements.
PacifiCorp must receive certification from the board to renew their operating license. The board found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's environmental impact statement was incomplete, so it is preparing a report on the project and its impacts. Their last meeting will be Nov. 3.
The board will address in their report J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate dams on the Klamath River in California. They asked for comments concerning the alternatives to current dam operations, which are included in FERC's EIS.
Alternatives range from continued operation of the dams, to adding fish ladders and screens, hatchery, flow, and habitat modifications, trapping and hauling fish around the dams and removal of some of the dams.
Indian tribes, environmental groups and one fishermen's group blame the dams for warm water temperatures, algae blooms, coho salmon decline and blockage of salmon to the Upper Klamath Basin.
Most of the locals attending a meeting Oct. 21 in Yreka said they want the dams to remain and asked the board to use pre-dam water quality as a baseline in their report. They explained why they believe the dams are not the cause of poor water quality and salmon issues.
Herman Spannaus, a fourth-generation property owner at Copco Lake, asked the board to look at historical facts at the Yreka meeting.
"I question why PacifiCorp's feet are being held to the fire to water quality standards that they don't have any control over," Spannaus said. "This water comes from Klamath Lake, which was warm water to start with."
He cited Oregon State University research scientist Ken Rykbost, who concluded there is enough phosphorus and warm water to support algae blooms at the river's source from Sprague and Williamson rivers and the Klamath Falls area.
Spannaus said water quality below Copco and Iron Gate dams is better than above the dams and described some of PacifiCorp's successful water quality improvements. He said dams don't kill salmon.
Dr. Richard Gierak, a physician, former member of the FERC, chemist, biologist, and member of a fish passage advisory team, said there was no potable water in the 1800s in the Upper Klamath River, according to journals. He said there were no coho salmon in the Klamath River until they were planted in the 1940s and '50s. Coho are now listed as endangered.
Gierak said there have been record salmon runs on the Klamath after the dams were built. He said sea lions and Indian gill nets kill thousands of salmon at the mouth of the river, and ocean conditions affect salmon runs. He is appalled that anyone would suggest removing the hydropower dams, which provide renewable and affordable power to 70,000 households.
Betty Hall of the Shasta tribe said that in 1827, explorer Peter Skene Ogden came up the Klamath River and documented that the salmon could not ascend beyond the rough rapids.
"When the fish got into Copco Marsh area they were already spawning and beat up and they were inedible," Hall said. She said removing the dams would be a waste.
Robert Franklin, a senior hydrologist with the Hoopa Valley tribe, told the board, "I will think you've done a great job if you report that the alternatives will not comply with the Hoopa Valley Tribe's EPA-approved water quality standards and therefore will not be legally feasible." Franklin said salmon will be eliminated and the fisheries will collapse if the dams aren't removed.
Stephanie Tidwell, executive director of Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, said the board should deny PacifiCorp their certification. She said PacifiCorp can't meet the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act and implementing the 41 mitigation measures won't recover coho salmon as mandated by the ESA.
Freelance writer Jacqui Krizo is based in Tulelake.