September 30, 2009

Klamath River dams may fall, but cleanup costs still unaccounted for

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The utility company that owns four dams on the Klamath River in Oregon has reached a deal with federal and state officials, as well as an alliance of non-governmental parties, to remove the dams as part of a larger plan to restore the river and its salmon runs as well as help farmers in the area.

Matthew Preusch of the Oregonian writes that after months of closed-door discussions, the groups have agreed on a dam-removal plan for the Upper Klamath basin. Disputes over diminishing water levels and mass fish die-offs have pressured PacifiCorp to abolish the dams that fragment the river, which runs from southern Oregon to the California coast.

While environmental groups such as Oregon Wild have long called for removal of the Klamath River dams, they’re not exactly keen on the entire basin plan. Perhaps that is because part of the deal exempts PacifiCorp from any liability, should unexpected environmental clean up costs occur.

American Rivers issued a press release saying the pact “sets in motion (the) world’s largest river restoration.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has already sang his praises to the plan, but Congress has until 2012 to decide whether the dam deal can be done. This includes allocating $500 million for the removals — $250 million of which must come from the California legislature, whose budget has seen better days.

— Natasha Walker

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