Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Commentary by Samuel Strait

Who would ever believe someone aspiring to represent their local
normally forgotten citizenry, could ever be associated with doing their
job properly?  Better yet, making the correct decision. Curry County
Commissioners have joined with those in Jackson, Siskiyou, and Klamath
Counties to draft a letter asking the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission to suspend the transfer, decommissioning and removal  of the
four Klamath River dams.  In February the FERC published their
Environmental Impact Statement for public comment which would allow for
the physical removal of the Copco No. 1, the Copco No. 2, the Iron Gate,
and John C. Boyle dams.  Time by the FERC has been allowed to question
the decisions reached in determining that all factors had been
considered before the removal scheduled to take place in 2024 had been met.

The four counties contend that this was not the case.    The three on
the Curry Commission explained in their letter to the FERC that drought
conditions and fire danger make the retention of water storage in the
Northern part of the State critical going forward.  That, and the
potential for irrigation water and drinking water make it imperative for
the FERC to consider that there was the lack of a complete and proper
evaluation of the project.  Salmon spend relatively a small amount of
their adult lives in the confines of the River.  No proper consideration
has been made of the conditions Salmon must address for a majority of
their life cycle, and that is of the time spent in the Ocean. The
Commission is asked to evaluate these factors before making the final
decision on the Dams.

The entire process thus far has been fraught with poor science and
emotion rather than a properly conducted Environmental evaluation of the
project.  Early on an investigator from the Department of the Interior
sent to evaluate the reporting on conditions for dam removal found it to
be biased, predetermined and improper.   Nothing has changed since. 
Never at any time has the evaluation considered the possibility that
anything other than the four lower dams could be responsible for the
declining fish populations which began in the 1970’s fully fifty years
after the dams had been constructed.  Ocean studies since have concluded
that fish populations along the Pacific Coast and the Ocean in general
have declined to but 1 to 3% of their pre 1970’s levels. That coupled
with the fact that 21% of the current returning salmon are from two fish
hatcheries set to be eliminated with the removal of the dams.

While much of the focus contending dam removal creates conditions that
seriously effect the economy, safety, and health of those in the four
counties, it is clear that the lack of attention to ocean fish
populations is a serious defect when contending that a restoration will
occur once the dams are removed.  In addition to the fact that
California does have water storage issues and the money being spent for
the removal project was meant to increase water storage capacity not
diminish it.  While consideration for the Yurok and Karuk tribes, river
fishermen, and fish resource management be considered in the process, it
makes no sense if the dam removal does not meet their requirements while
having what will clearly be a negative impact on the remainder of the
region’s population.

It has been a couple of decades now where dam removal along the Pacific
Coast has been the tool of choice for fish population restoration, yet
the successes have been nearly non existent.  A few instances where
population have leveled, but most others have seen continued decline. 
As Siskiyou, Klamath, Jackson, and now Curry Counties have urged the
FERC to take a breath and re examine the removal process, Ocean
population evaluation should take a front row seat in that process.

One thought on “Someone In Government Thinking?”
  1. The Klamath River will continue to be one of the most heavily litigated water ways in the Country.
    Del Norte County is in a RUT of assessing plans, that plan on assessing plans.
    How does anything get done?
    Nothing will, if Career Environmentalist Chris Howard get’s Re-Elected. Him and his “Friends of Del Norte” will stop nothing short of extinguishing local enterprise, in pursuit of expanding Gov’t and creating another plan assessment task force.

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