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Oregon State Senate Hears Case for Klamath Dam Removal Project

The Oregon State Senate heard testimony from many interested parties concerning the proposed removal of 4 dams on the Klamath river. If passed, the bill will be the first of many steps towards dam removal - something which many people feel is necessary for the ecological and political health of the region, while others believe is wasteful and unnecessary.
Witnesses‭ appeared before ‬the Oregon State Senate to provide testimony on Senate Bill‭ ‬76,‭ ‬a historic dam removal project under the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.‭ ‬The KBRA is a comprehensive plan developed by a coalition in the‭ ‬Klamath‭ ‬Basin area to redress fish population and water access problems.


SB‭ ‬76‭ ‬is a preliminary step towards removing four of the six dams on the‭ ‬Klamath River‭ ‬-‭ ‬the most ambitious dam removal project in history.‭ ‬If passed,‭ ‬the bill will create a trust fund through a‭ ‬2%‭ ‬increase in rates for the‭ ‬Oregon and‭ ‬California customers of‭ Pacific Power, a division of Pacificorp ‬company.‭ ‬This fund will be‭ ‬Oregon's share of the price of dam removal‭ ‬-‭ ‬slated to begin in‭ ‬2020‭ ‬pending scientific analysis of the environmental and economic impact of the project.


SB‭ ‬76‭ ‬is being pushed as part of the larger KBRA by a coalition of farmers,‭ ‬Native American tribes,‭ ‬fishermen,‭ ‬environmentalists,‭ ‬and Pacificorp.‭ ‬The goals of these‭ ‬Klamath‭ ‬Basin residents are to improve the overall ecological health of the area by restoring river flows,‭ ‬stabilize the water supply,‭ ‬increase the dwindling salmon population,‭ ‬and help resolve the decades long conflict of natural resource and water allocation.‭ ‬The goal of Pacificorp is to protect its ratepayers by capping their liability at‭ ‬$200‭ ‬million total,‭ ‬split proportionately between‭ ‬Oregon and‭ ‬California customers.‭ ‬This money will be supplemented by a‭ ‬$250‭ ‬million General Obligation Bond provided by‭ ‬California taxpayers.‭ ‬Pacificorp believes the cost of‭ ‬$200‭ ‬million for the dam removal to be significantly less than the cost of relicensing the dams.


Opponents of the bill include some farmers in the area as well as legislators concerned with unknowns tied to the dam removal project.‭ ‬These farmers are concerned that the KBRA does not offer a comprehensive solution to conflicting water rights claims in the area.‭ ‬Some have cited a disputed claim that the‭ ‬9,000 cubic yards of sediment built up behind the dams could have an adverse effect on the downriver ecology.


The state senate's Environmental and Natural Resources committee is slated to vote on passage of SB‭ ‬76 on Tuesday, February 10th. This bill is the first step in a long process towards dam removal and overall restoration of the ecological area of the‭ ‬Klamath‭ ‬Basin.‭

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