NOAA Fisheries, Interior mandate fishways for 161-MW Klamath

U.S. resource agencies have filed fishway prescriptions that would require PacifiCorp to build fish passage at four dams as a condition for relicensing the 161.338-MW Klamath project, on the Klamath River in Oregon and California. PacifiCorp estimates the fishways could cost as much as $200 million.

Preliminary prescriptions by NOAA Fisheries and the Interior Department call for fish passage at 18-MW Iron Gate, 20-MW Copco I, 27-MW Copco II, and 90.338-MW J.C. Boyle dams. The project’s three lower dams — Iron Gate, Copco I, and Copco II — do not have fish passage. While J.C. Boyle Dam does have fishways, the agencies said they do not conform to current criteria.

The agencies filed their prescriptions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission March 29. PacifiCorp has until April 28 to file requests with the agencies for trial-type hearings to resolve factual disputes, as set forth in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. If a hearing is requested, the agencies said it likely would be conducted in late summer or early fall.

Additionally, PacifiCorp and other parties have until April 28 to file alternative fishway prescriptions under the Energy Policy Act. The agencies said their prescriptions are preliminary and subject to review after hearings and consideration of alternatives submitted by stakeholders.

The Energy Policy Act requires resource agencies to adopt alternative fishway prescriptions proposed by any party if they adequately protect the resource, and the resource agency finds the alternative would cost less to implement than the agency’s prescription, or would result in improved power operations. Once a fishway prescription is adopted by a resource agency, FERC must add it to the hydro license without modification.

Fish ladders could cost $200 million

It is estimated building fish ladders at the dams would cost from $175 million to $200 million. However, the Los Angeles Times reported it would cost $100 million simply to tear down the four dams. Environmental groups released a study in 2004 saying the four could be dismantled and disposed of for less than $40 million.

The agencies said their prescriptions would restore 58 miles of habitat for chinook salmon, steelhead, and lamprey; restore 46 miles of habitat for threatened coho salmon; and improve “connectivity” for resident trout. They said fish passage also would create an opportunity to develop and implement a plan to return salmon, steelhead, and lamprey to more than 300 miles of upstream habitat.

While the existing license (No. 2082) contains no fish passage provisions, spokesman Dave Kvamme said PacifiCorp thinks its hatchery program is adequate for fish protection. PacifiCorp has operated the project under a temporary annual license since its original license expired in February.

The Klamath project has seven hydropower developments and non-powered Keno Dam. In a 7,000-page relicense application filed in 2004, PacifiCorp proposed decommissioning two powerhouses, 3.2-MW East Side and 600-kW West Side, and excluding them and Keno from the relicensed project. At that time, the utility said the cost of installing fish screens at those plants would make them uneconomical. The seventh hydro development is 2.2-MW Fall Creek.

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