Tribes rally; PacifiCorp keeps dam removal option open

About 100 marchers from the Klamath River tribes and their allies rallied outside the world’s largest hydropower conference Aug. 2, calling for removal of dams in the Klamath River Basin of Oregon and California.

In response, the dams’ owner, utility PacifiCorp, said it is sympathetic to the interests of the Native American community and added that the dam removal option remains on the table in its settlement negotiations with stakeholders.

The peaceful rally outside the Oregon Convention Center featured speakers from the Klamath tribes who have been in negotiations with PacifiCorp over the future of the hydro project. They said the Klamath culture and communities rely on salmon and a healthy Klamath River, which they said has been degraded by dams — some nearly a century old.

“PacifiCorp said they are willing to remove the dams, and we’re cautiously optimistic,” Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe of California, said.

PacifiCorp: Settlement process to address complex issues

PacifiCorp responded, saying it is sympathetic to the tribes, commercial fisheries, and the agricultural community in the basin. It said the ongoing settlement process is the appropriate place to address complex social, political, and economic issues involved in its proposal to relicense the 161-MW Klamath River project.

�We have heard the tribes’ concerns,� PacifiCorp President Bill Fehrman said. �We are not opposed to dam removal or other settlement opportunities as long as our customers are not harmed and our property rights are respected.�

In a 7,000-page relicense application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PacifiCorp has proposed decommissioning two of the project’s seven hydro developments, 3.2-MW East Side and 600-kW West Side, and excluding them and the non-powered Keno Dam from the relicensed project. It also has proposed a trap-and-transport facility and downstream collectors to test the feasibility of reintroducing salmon to the upper Klamath Basin.

The rally took place outside the HydroVision 2006 conference, attended by more than 2,000 hydropower industry experts and stakeholders from 47 nations.

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