and State Officials Sign Nonbinding Deal to Remove
"It's just nutty to commit to
this with Bush heading out the door," said Tom Schlosser, an attorney for
the Hoopa tribe of
The agreement has
PacifiCorp spending $200 million,
By Eric Bailey
the deal, which could require fiscally strapped
agreement in principal was signed by officials from the Department of the
Interior, the states of
Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the deal represents a "path forward"
that he hopes will bring "a vision of peace, finally, in the
The river has been the focus of a long and volatile water war pitting the needs of farmers against the survival of endangered fish. Howls of protest erupted when authorities shut off irrigation deliveries during the drought of 2001. Restoration of those diversions in 2002 was blamed for the deaths of 70,000 adult salmon returning to spawn.
the years since, conditions on the
the deal, PacifiCorp would contribute as much as $200 million toward dam
removal and river restoration, with the money coming from boosted electricity
rates for customers in the
Greg Abel, PacifiCorp chairman, said rates could rise as much as 2%. Meanwhile, the agreement gives the company protection from liability and allows time to find replacement power.
Backers of the deal expressed optimism, but noted that a number of tricky steps remain.
"We have not popped the champagne cork yet, but we have put a bottle on ice," said Rebecca Wodder, president of the nonprofit group American Rivers.
A final agreement is to be signed by June 30. That would launch an intense scientific and economic analysis to determine if dam removal is feasible and cost-effective, a process to be concluded with a decision by the Interior secretary in March 2012.
The deal also calls on Congress to approve a $1-billion restoration package for the river basin that won broad support in the region earlier this year. Some environmental groups say that accord bends too far to deliver abundant water and cheap power to farmers.
PacifiCorp, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has been under mounting pressure to demolish the dams.
West Coast lawmakers, among them Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, called for dam removal after the Klamath's salmon runs slumped deeply in 2006.
Last year, federal biologists required PacifiCorp to install fish ladders -- a tricky engineering feat expected to cost at least $300 million -- before the company could get a new license to continue operating the dams.
Foes of the agreement said it makes no sense to strike a deal weeks before Barack Obama becomes president.
just nutty to commit to this with Bush heading out the door," said Tom
Schlosser, an attorney for the Hoopa tribe of
He and other foes say PacifiCorp might exploit the agreement as a delaying tactic, arguing that the deal has loopholes that allow the company to back out as late as 2012.
the meantime, they said, the agreement will essentially shut down
Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild said the deal also links dam removal to the $1-billion restoration package he believes favors farmers over fish.
"This has been a well-orchestrated campaign by the Bush administration taking advantage of a desire for dam removal to sell another package that's actually bad for salmon and wildlife," he said.
Bailey is a Times staff writer.