There is a process underway to remove four hydroelectric facilities from the Klamath River.
The first, starting upriver, is John C. Boyle. Originally named the Big Bend Development, the project was completed on October 1, 1958 with a rated capacity of 88 megawatts. The cost: $70 million.
The second, Copco 1, was placed into operation in the spring of 1918 with a rated capacity of 20 megawatts. By the end of 1922 the second Copco generator No. 1A was placed into operation at 20 megawatts. The cost: $3 million. Copco No. 2 was placed into operation at a rated capacity of 30 megawatts in July 1925.
Lastly, the Iron Gate Development was dedicated on February 3, 1962 with a rated output of 18 megawatts.
Iron Gate serves mainly to regulate flows from the upriver hydroelectric developments which were adversely affecting the river downstream.
This is what these hydroelectric developments would cost today: John C Boyle: $70 million in 1958, multiplied by an inflation rate 805.13%, is $633.6 million in today’s dollars. Copco 1 would cost $52 million, Copco 2 would cost $33.7 million and Iron Gate would cost $124 million.
In total the dams would cost $843 million dollars to build today.
The average annual power production for these developments is around 75 megawatts hourly. At their production level, the annual value of their power is production level, at 10 cents per kilowatt the annual value of the power is $65.7 million.
If hydroelectric developments are removed, that value will disappear and it won’t be back.
A megawatt will power approximately 1,000 homes. 75 megawatts can provide electricity for approximately 225,000 people.
What else? No one knows for sure what the effects of removal will be. The silt behind the dams could poison the river for years or, in the event of a major flood, create a dead zone in the ocean at the mouth of the Klamath River. Who will pay for the cleanup?
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation is a shell corporation formed solely for the purpose of dam removal. Its only assets are funds from PacificCorp customers and taxpayers in general.
When troubles with the removal begin, KRRC will declare bankruptcy. This is why Berkshire Hathaway Energy — which owns PacificCorp which in turn is owned by a Mr. Warren Buffet — is currently petitioning the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for transfer of its ownership to the KRRC.
The states of California and Oregon support this move which will place the burden of cleaning up the removal mess squarely on the tax payer.
Why does the astute Mr. Buffet not want the hydro project? The answer is the dams produce power too cheaply compared to wind and solar. Generally, the more expensive something is, the greater the profit margin and that’s true here. That’s the reason Berkshire-Hathaway is closing it’s coal fired power plants and promoting solar and wind power.
California has a 4,400 megawatt power production deficit. The Klamath River Developments have a peak output of around 180 megawatts, that’s about 4% of California’s problem.
Texas can’t keep the lights on when the windmills freeze. Oregon and Washington are talking about eliminating natural gas for space heating in favor of electricity.
Silly people say hydroelectric isn’t renewable and we’ll find the power somewhere. Isn’t better to develop the new infrastructure prior to decommissioning that which you have?
If you are worried about the salmon, visit the Iron Gate Hatchery when they are spawning and witness the power of nature.
That will soothe the fevered brow and you will know the salmon would transit the developments with the addition of the appropriate infrastructure.
In his book, “50 Years On The Klamath,” John C. Boyle wrote: “Those interested in retaining and developing Klamath’s greatest natural resource, ‘water,’ should not be complacent. Who knows when somebody with plenty of money and plenty of votes may appropriate part of it and put it to beneficial use outside the basin of it’s origin. It is still the envy of much of the arid West.”
This has happened: At any given time California diverts 50% to 80% of the Trinity River, which joins the Klamath at Weitchpec, to the Sacramento River for use beneficial to that state. Arguably this is responsible for most of the environmental woes in the Lower Klamath River.
Removal of these developments will serve as a precedent for removal of the dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, as well as all the irrigation diversions in the basin.
Then we will find out what life was like around here in the early 1900s.
— Charles C. Ehlers