Editor’s Note: This guest opinion is In response to Representative Reschke’s Letter “Why I stand in opposition to dam removal along the Klamath River” which ran Friday, July 6.
I’d like to respond to State Rep. E. Werner Reschke’s July 6 letter, “Why I Stand in Opposition to Dam Removal.”
I have been involved in Klamath River issues — as Oregon Attorney General (1993-1997), Oregon’s Governor (2003-3011), and board member of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) — so I have a long history with, and a good understanding of, this river and its water allocation issues.
Rep. Reschke states that “these dams have provided exemplary flood control.” The four hydroelectric dams are not operated to provide flood control. They provide an ancillary flood-control benefit in the 18 miles below the dams.
KRRC’s Definite Plan, which was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 28, 2018, describes the plan for flood-proofing the few dozen homes and bridges affected by a minor increase in the 100-year floodplain.
The first concern in Rep. Reschke’s letter is “the ‘colloidal goo’ build-up behind all four dams.” Independent studies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have verified that accumulated sediments in the reservoirs aren’t toxic: no contaminants in the accumulated sediment violate stringent standards for human health or drinking water.
The second concern in Rep. Reschke’s letter relates to “surface flushing.” KRRC has no control over in-stream flow requirements. These are managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and are primarily controlled by the Link River dam, which is outside of KRRC’s charge and responsibility.
Furthermore, I believe dam removal will likely result in reduced fish disease in the river, which could diminish the need for fisheries pulse flows.
The final point in Rep. Reschke’s letter is that the “dictate of dam removal comes from outside the area.” However, there is broad local support for this project: the Amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) (2016) was signed by the representatives of the States of Oregon and California, local Tribes, irrigators, fishermen, and others.
Furthermore, we must not forget the long and confrontational history of water disputes from which the plan to remove the dams arose.
When we developed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the original KHSA in 2010, representatives from all sides of the issue, including farmers, Tribes, environmental groups, and fishermen, put together a set of solutions in which each party gave up something and each party gained something, all for the greater good of better water security and environmental restoration.
These original agreements failed in Washington, D.C., and, meanwhile, the health of the river gets worse, fisheries continue to decline, Tribes are harmed, farmers have uncertain and curtailed water deliveries, and litigation increases.
At this time, Alan Mikkelsen, Senior Adviser to the Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke for Water and Western Resource Issues, is working in the Basin to bring all interested parties together to develop a new Klamath River collaborative agreement.
While Mr. Mikkelsen’s efforts are on a separate track from the KRRC project, I believe that his success depends on KRRC’s success of dam removal.
Like State Rep. Reschke, I also care about the effects of this project on Oregonians, especially those living in the Klamath Basin. I am confident that the benefits that will come from dam removal will enhance our local communities, their economies and our environment. I believe that KRRC’s responsibility for dam removal is part of a process that will ultimately bring greater certainty and predictability to the water issues in the Klamath Basin.