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Dennis Linthicum

(This is the copy of a letter written by state Sen. Dennis Linthicum to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.)

I stand alongside the majority of taxpayers and citizens in firm opposition to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's approval of a water quality certification request for the J. C. Boyle Dam removal project.

The dam removal effort has too many uncertainties which bear negatively on long-term water quality, river habitat and fish spawning grounds due to river dynamics and existing sedimentary buildup behind the dams.

These dams provide environmentally beneficial functions by creating a series of reservoirs which diminish turbidity and improve downstream water quality. These reservoirs are giant settling ponds for particulate matter, including erosional debris, dead algae, cobble-sized sediment pebbles, and valley-fill alluvium.

Reservoirs trap sediment

Particulate organic matter, that originates from Upper Klamath Lake, basin agricultural return flows, municipal and industrial sources in the Klamath Falls area, is largely trapped by the J. C. Boyle reservoir. The overall nutrient loads, including naturally occurring phosphorous-rich material, settles behind the dam and never reaches the slower moving and shallower gradient portions of the river system. In turn, Copco 1, Copco 2 and Iron Gate Dam reservoirs also serve to keep sedimentary debris from flowing further downstream.

The original debris estimate for the Boyle dam was 1.5 million cubic yards. Today the estimate has been forced into a range that is deemed politically acceptable, at 600,000 cubic yards. This number is still a ridiculously large volume of sedimentary debris to consider flushing into the California river system is unconscionable and would cause catastrophic harm to the overall river environment, downstream fish populations, spawning grounds and riparian habitats.

More study needed

Additionally, the toxicity of these sedimentary composites has not been sufficiently studied. Mining operations have long surrounded the river system throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California. A United States Geological Survey review of mine data (2005), highlights that these past operations released elevated amounts of toxic substances into the watershed, including arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, tungsten, uranium, and zinc.

Oregon has been tightening rules, initiating moratoriums and legislating outright bans on various small-volume run-of-river dredge mining operations for years. Therefore, ODEQ should have serious reservations about the complexities involved in this potential toxic stockpile and be less insistent on approving this certification. Otherwise, the citizens will recognize this current 401-certification process is a politically motivated, agenda-driven water quality charade reeking with double-standards.

ODEQ should never considering allowing this potential toxic debris into the river system because it will never make past the deep boulder pockets, gravel and cobble bars and the subsequent multiple confluence embankments and ridges that occur along the lower elevations.

Additionally, the downstream gradient is too shallow, and the river flows will never be sufficient to mobilize the debris field. ODEQ’s permit approval pretends to only be concerned about water quality in Oregon. It is indefensible to allow these toxic sedimentary deposits into the lower river.

Flow too slow

From River Mile 160 to the ocean, the gradient approaches a 2 percent (.1893) grade meaning the drop to sea level has a slope of only 10 feet per mile. ODEQ certainly knows the equivalent waste-water drain run would require a slope of 110 feet per mile to drain efficiently.

The J. C. Boyle dam provides cool water to Iron Gate Hatchery which releases 7 million anadromous fingerlings annually as well as, clean, renewable, low-cost hydroelectric power for 70,000 households. It also, provides recreational and business opportunities. These positive attributes provide enormous public benefit and sufficient reason for ODEQ’s denial of this step in the dam removal certification process.

ODEQ must also consider cost. Original estimates ranged from $1.4 billion and upwards. After 2010, when Congress balked at funding the destruction of dams, there was an effort to “find cost reductions.”

The results offered nothing more than cost shifting and slight-of-hand congressional jerry-rigging of payments from various agency accounts. Nevertheless, the public was told of a new cost estimate of $800 million, a reduction of $400 million. Today, the Klamath River Renewal Corp. estimates total cost at $400-$450 million dollars, an estimated reduction of nearly $1 billion.

It appears that if we wait a couple of more years the cost could be halved again!

Overruns likely

No doubt, taxpayers will be burdened with millions of dollars of cost-overruns, future water quality issues, higher rates for base-load electricity, devastated habitat and riparian areas, and the destruction of private property, all because of an over-whelming, unfathomable mindset intent on destroying western civilization’s technological advances.

Oregonians should be the beneficiaries of the monumental investments, hard work and successful achievements made possible by our state’s water infrastructure. Oregon’s status as a modern agricultural and technological engine has been made possible by inexpensive base-load electricity and abundant, well-managed water resources.

ODEQ must ensure our heritage by denying approval for the 401 Water Quality Certificate for the removal of the J.C. Boyle dam.

Dennis Linthicum is a state senator from Oregon District 28 which includes Klamath County and parts or all of other nearby counties.