Mallams reacts to Jewell’s dam removal support

October 20, 2016

Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams, an advocate for keeping four hydroelectric dams in place on the Klamath River, scoffed at the notion that once the dams are removed, the river will run clean and clear.

In a response to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s letter calling for the removal of the dams, Mallams said, “The idea of the Klamath River ever being clean and cold defies all the historic journals from the earliest explorers. Klamath Lake and the Klamath River were described as mosquito infested, warm, foul smelling and not fit for man or livestock to drink.”

“The natural occurring, volcanic based phosphorus presence, eliminates any chance of achieving pristine conditions. A real chance for major improvements in the water quality and quantity would be deep, off-stream storage and selective dredging.”

Mallams has been the key proponent for a straight up or down vote on dam removal that is on the Nov. 8 ballot. The commission voted 2 to 1 to place the non-binding, advisory vote on the ballot.

Question for voters

Measure 18-107 asks, “Are you in favor of removing the four hydroelectric dams under the terms of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement?”

A yes vote advises Klamath County commissioners to support removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. A no vote advises the commissioners to oppose removal of the same dams. Either result is nonbinding.

The dams are scheduled for relicensing through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Mallams believes that if there is an overwhelming agreement to keep the dams in place, that may give the county some leverage at a FERC hearing. The hearings have yet to be scheduled.

Meanwhile, Jewell’s office wrote a letter Monday in support of dam removal, stating that it will allow for salmon to reach Upper Klamath Lake from the mouth of the river where it empties into the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.

“The destruction of the dams would cause the lake and river conditions to revert back to those conditions the earliest explorers encountered,” Mallams said. “Not to mention the flushing of 22 million cubic yards of sediment down the river which would completely bury many of the historic spawning beds for generations.”

Iron Gate Hatchery

When the dams were built, the Iron Gate Hatchery was built to supply fish to the river system. It annually produces about 5 million salmon smolts per year. With dam removal, the hatchery will be a thing of the past, the commissioner noted.

“The bottom line is simply the dams have and can continue to clean up the river, continue to provide clean energy production and help sustain much-needed economic benefits for all,” he said.

California’s and Oregon’s governors, federal officials, tribal government leaders, environmental groups and the dam owners — PacifiCorp — in April signed the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). It would remove the four hydroelectric dams — Copco 1, Copco 2, Iron Gate and J.C. Boyle — by 2020 in order to improve water quality for fish and downstream water users.

A nonprofit corporation known as the Klamath River Renewal Corporation was created earlier this year to take ownership of the dams from PacifiCorp, but this transfer will also need to be approved by FERC.

Peer reviewed

“Many, including supporters of dam removal have called this effort ‘The Grand Experiment,’” Mallams said. “I call it an experiment partly because much of the so-called peer reviewed science Secretary Jewell references was commissioned and paid for by special interest groups that are promoting dam removal,” said Mallams.

“Even if this experiment is successful, there is an acknowledgement that fish, if they ever get as far as Keno Dam, will have to be literally trucked from there to Klamath Lake.

“So why not capture fish at existing structures at Iron Gate Hatchery, and truck them to the lake?” he asks. “This methodology is successfully being done in many other areas.”

Also, Secretary Jewell’s claim that the money to pay for dam removal is already in place is completely false, claims Mallams.

“Yes, if you are a PacifiCorp ratepayer, you are paying a surcharge on your monthly bill for Klamath dam removal, but the $250 million supposedly included in the California bond funding does not exist except on paper.

Dam removal costs

“She also claims the “likely” cost of dam removal will be $292 million, way less than the $450 million available. The Secretary wishes to ignore the past FERC report that estimated dam removal cost with the sediment issues to total as much as $4.5 billion.

“Another more recent study commissioned by her own Department of Interior, estimated dam removal cost at about $1 billion. This did not include most of the possible litigation associated with the sediment issues because it was such a huge unknown,” he said.

“Do we still need a real comprehensive water settlement? Absolutely,” he said. “I do believe in settlement and compromise, but I do not believe in complete surrender being forced upon the citizens by out of control government.”