Written by Adrianne Madden
October 2, 2009
The Klamath River dams may well come a tumblin' down, but it may be another decade before they do.
The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/01/business/energy-environment/01klamath.html?_r=4&scp=2&sq=klamath&st=cse& reported this week on the release of a draft plan to remove four aging Klamath dams located in California and Oregon. And in releasing the plan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the Klamath "one of the most challenging water issues of our time."
True that, Mr. Secretary.
There are several stakeholders involved in the controversy surrounding the PacifiCorp.-owned dams. You've got power users who depend upon the electricity the dams generate. You've got farmers who need Klamath water to irrigate their fields. And you've got Native tribes, environmentalists and fishermen who say the river is critical to the health of Klamath salmon runs.
Those runs have suffered in a couple of ways. The dams are said to prevent upstream spawning. And in 2002, when the Interior Department diverted water to farms, the resulting low water levels caused a die-off of an estimated 30,000 Klamath fish, salmon advocates assert.
The draft plan is a good sign the dams will come down — eventually. According to the Times, Salazar has until March 2012 to decide whether the dams should be breached. And if he decides they should, dam removal won't begin until 2020.
In the meantime, troubled West Coast salmon stocks — and the fishermen battered by low stock numbers that in recent years have triggered two federal disaster declarations — will have to somehow find a way to hang tough for another decade.
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