Saturday, March 31, 2007

Klamath Dam Removal

Good analysis of the issues involved in dam removal including replacing the hydro power lost, and salmon protection.

Analysis: Suit adds twist to Klamath dams
UPI Correspondent

-- A California environmental group this week opened a new front in the battle to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River that had become bogged down in a standoff over economic forecasts.

By alleging that a fish hatchery maintained at one of the four dams was actually damaging the Klamath salmon habitat with its waste products and toxic algae, Klamath Riverkeeper raised the ante in the process of issuing a new federal license to PacifiCorp, the company that operates the dams.

PacifiCorp is part of MidAmerica Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, a fact not lost on Klamath Riverkeeper as it appealed directly to the Oracle of Omaha's legendary business judgment.

"We call on Mr. Buffett to scrutinize PacifiCorp's operation of these dams and take action to prevent further devastation to the River and the salmon," the organization said in a news release this week. "Hopefully, our citizens' enforcement suit will be the first step in resolving these issues and restoring the Klamath River, and the communities that rely on the river, to what they once were."

Unspoken in the statement was the implication that shutting down the 40-year-old Iron Gate Dam hatchery would leave PacifiCorp without the cushion it provided in the form of salmon hatchlings to offset the loss of population wrought by the dam itself. And without that cushion, PacifiCorp might find it impossible to meet federal environmental regulations without taking the draconian step of removing the dams and allowing the Klamath to theoretically return to its "natural" pre-dam state.

The idea of tearing down hydroelectric dams on the Klamath and other western rivers has been a vision -- or a pipedream -- depending on one's view, of the ambitious notion that the electricity supply given up for the sake of white water and great fishing can be replaced without a significant impact on the regional economy.

The Klamath Hydroelectric Project is located on the California-Oregon border and has a capacity of 169 megawatts (MW). That is a fairly small output when compared to coal power plants, but nonetheless larger than most wind farms, and big enough to supply power to about 1.6 million customers. Proponents of western dam breaching contend that it is easy enough to replace the electricity produced by hydropower.