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Copco No. 1

Copco No. 1 dam and powerhouse on the Klamath River.

Public comment is sought for a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license, according to a news release from the California State Water Resources Control Board.

The license surrender is one step toward the proposed decommissioning and removal of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in California.

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) applied to the board in September for a Clean Water Act section 401 certification for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license surrender of the Lower Klamath Project. KRRC, a nonprofit, is charged with removing the dams, restoring formerly inundated lands, and implementing required mitigation measures.

The draft EIR is seen as a step forward, according to a statement issued Friday by Mark Bransom, KRRC chief executive officer.

“This draft report is a key step to completing this critical project and rehabilitating one of the great rivers of the American west. It’s a sign of meaningful progress and I look forward to a thorough KRRC review of the report and its proposals,” Bransom stated. “KRRC is pleased that after considering the full range of project benefits and impacts, the DEIR looked favorably on the Proposed Project.”

The hydroelectric project in Siskiyou and Klamath counties consists of seven dams: East Side; West Side; Keno; J.C. Boyle; Fall Creek (located on Fall Creek, a Klamath River tributary); Copco No. 1; Copco No. 2; and Iron Gate. Removal of J.C. Boyle in Oregon, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron Gate dams in California, and associated facilities is proposed. This would implement portions of the 2016 Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement which seeks to return the river to free-flowing conditions to benefit fish passage.

Bransom noted the review of the draft EIR is just one step of many in proceeding with dam removal.

“As the designated lead agency for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) on the Klamath project, the (board) must conduct this CEQA analysis before it can issue a final Clean Water Act Section 401 permit to the KRRC for removal of the three dams in California,” Bransom said. “The 401 permit is one of several regulatory permits and approvals KRRC requires to proceed with dam removal, in addition to FERC’s approval of KRRC’s applications for transfer and surrender of the hydroelectric license.”

The board will hold four public meetings to provide information and allow oral comments on the draft EIR. The time allotted at the meetings for each individual or organization to comment may need to be limited depending on the number of people in attendance. No action will be taken during the meetings and no decisions will be made.

The locations and times of the meetings are:

n Tuesday, Feb. 5, 5 to 8 p.m., Best Western Miner’s Inn, 122 E. Miner St., Yreka

n Wednesday, Feb. 6, 5 to 8 p.m., D Street Neighborhood Center, 1301 D St., Arcata, Calif.

n Thursday, Feb. 7, noon to 3 p.m., Karuk Tribe Council Chambers, 37960 Highway 96, Orleans, Calif.

n Friday, Feb. 15, 1 to 4 p.m., CalEPA Building, Sierra Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, Second Floor, Sacramento

The Sacramento meeting will be webcast live on the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) website at: www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast. During the webcast, participants can submit email comments to: wr401program@waterboards.ca.gov.

The Notice of Availability and Draft EIR are available at: https://bit.ly/2TcxefF. Additional information related to the Lower Klamath Project water quality certification and California Environmental Quality Act process can be found at: https://bit.ly/2jwgIcL.

Comments on the draft EIR are due by noon, Feb. 26, and can be sent to wr401program@waterboards.ca.gov, or Ms. Michelle Siebal, State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights — Water Quality Certification Program, P.O. Box 2000, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000.