Published in the Siskiyou News March 24, 2023
Demolishing four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River, three in California and one in Oregon, is a dumb and harmful idea. Unfortunately, it seems that the train has already left the station, and being dumb and harmful won’t stop its progress. As I have attempted to point out in columns over the past several years (a futile gesture, it seems) there are a million reasons why removing the dams is an incredibly stupid idea. A million? Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but maybe not. Here are a few of the reasons, along with links to my articles.
- Back in August, 2011, the U.S. Department of Interior spent more than a half million dollars on a fraudulent survey to convince the U.S. Congress to authorize dam removal. But Congress was smart enough not to buy it and refused, so dam demolition proponents did an end-run and went to a bureaucratic unelected agency, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to get approval. How could they do that? THE DAMS – THE GOVERNMENT’S FRAUDULENT SURVEY – Bob Kaster
- Those who want to tear down the dams claim that the decline of salmon population is because the dams prevent anadromous fish from travelling further upriver to spawn. But there is convincing evidence that other natural impediments historically prevented them from doing that, and that tearing down the dams won’t make a difference. Also, there should be more to the conversation than just about the fish. There are other wildlife species that inhabit the river and the reservoirs, such Canada Goose, Sandpiper, Western Pond Turtle, and Crayfish, to name a few. They don’t all depend on the reservoirs to flourish, but some do. Dam demolition proponents don’t talk about them. DON’T GIVE UP TRYING TO SAVE THE DAMS. IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN THE FISH. – Bob Kaster
- Aren’t the people that want to take out the dams the same people that are concerned about climate change, drought, wildfires, and reliance on fossil fuels for energy? The dams conserve water, create clean energy, and facilitate firefighting. It’s important to keep the reservoirs in place to help regulate and control the flow dynamics of the river, particularly if we face more drought and more temperature extremes in the future. Scary Headlines and Dams – Bob Kaster
- The Klamath River reservoirs have become a part of Siskiyou County’s wonderfully diverse beauty and landscape, and are important to its recreation-based tourism, a mainstay of our struggling economy. Tearing them down is a slap in the face to the people who live here, who are forced to pay the cost through electric utility rates and taxes, and who will bear the brunt of having a valuable recreational and fire suppression resource torn away by decisions made by people a long distance away. HOW HIGH CAN A SALMON JUMP? – Bob Kaster
- As for dam removal, there are a few core issues I just can’t ignore. A few years ago, it was up to the United States Congress to decide whether to take out the dams. Congress didn’t do it. So mysteriously the decision now is in the hands of FERC, an unelected administrative agency under the auspices of the US Department of Energy. I still haven’t figured out how that happened. DAM IS NOT A FOUR-LETTER WORD – Bob Kaster
- The proponents of dam destruction proudly proclaim that in February of 2010, PacifiCorp (who owned the dams) and several state, federal, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, individuals, and Native American tribes entered into the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). This agreement, which has subsequently been amended, was what originally set the demolition project in motion. Unfortunately, the signatories of this agreement of “stakeholders” did not include the governments of either Siskiyou or Klamath County, where the dams are located, or their cities, or their citizens. In fact, the citizens of the two counties disapproved the project by overwhelming 80% margins on ballot measures. The agreements entered into among “stakeholders” significantly did not include the majority of people actually living in the Oregon and California counties in which the dams are located. THE DAMS – CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER – Bob Kaster
The above reasons dam removal is a terrible idea are the tip of the iceberg, and I have articulated them in previous columns. Many more are listed in an informational pamphlet recently promoted by the Siskiyou County Water Users Association, and can be seen here: FlyerGOP INtisoII.pdf. This document was created for a presentation the Association gave to the California Republican Party Spring Convention held earlier this month in Sacramento, which resulted in the passage of this resolution: “Be it resolved that the CAGOP condemns the actions of Governor Gavin Newsom for purposefully making California’s water situation worse, increasing energy costs, and depriving the Citizens of their voice in this important local matter.” It is unfortunate that the dam demolition issue is caught up in today’s world of political partisanship, but it highlights the fact that voices of the citizens who live in the counties where the dams are physically located are simply ignored by the people in power in the federal and the state governments of Oregon and California. The majority of the voters in rural California counties like Siskiyou are largely Republican, whereas most voters in the rest of the state are Democrat.
As I said, it appears that the train has already left the station on the dam issue, and I think most people have given up hope. The Siskiyou County Supervisors, who have previously devoted county resources to defeat the project appear to have given up hope. And I believe the same can be said for Yreka City Council members, who have a genuine concern for how the demolition project will affect the city’s water supply. City and County officials are justifiably conflicted, as they are tasked with the stewardship of their constituents’ funds and are righteously cautious about spending their declining resources for a lost cause, no matter how important.
But before I throw in the towel, I want to alert you to a quirky little “David vs. Goliath” lawsuit presently winding its way through the Siskiyou County Superior Court, called ANTHONY INTISO VS. THE STATE OF CALIFORNA, Case #22CV00609. I have been tracking this case since it was first filed, and wrote about it last December: ANOTHER DAM MYSTERY – Bob Kaster
When Mr. Intiso first filed the case, he did not have a lawyer. Now, blessedly, he has one, and he needs one because, as I predicted, the lawsuit is now being defended by a phalanx of lawyers from the California State Attorney General’s office. The names on the State’s pleadings include Attorney General Rob Bonta and four other attorneys from his office in Sacramento.
The issues presented in his lawsuit are straightforward and simple. In 2014, California’s voters passed Proposition 1 (the Bond Act). The Bond Act authorized $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds to fund, among other things, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration. The Bond Act was worded in a way that voters would not likely have understood that $250 million of the bond funds would be used to destroy Klamath River dams, but this is what the State of California has committed toward the project. Mr. Intiso filed his lawsuit under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 523a, which arguably allows a taxpayer to sue to prevent the state, or an officer thereof, from making an illegal expenditure of the State’s funds. As a taxpayer, Mr. Intiso claims the expenditure of $250 million of the Bond Act funds for dam removal is illegal for two reasons: First, that the wording of the Bond Act presented to the voters didn’t let them know that a portion of the funds would be used for dam removal; and, second, that the express language of the Bond Act itself provided that its funds “shall not be available for any project that could have an adverse effect on the values upon which a wild and scenic river or any other river is afforded protections pursuant to the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act or the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.” Mr. Intiso argues, not unreasonably, that dam removal will indeed have such an adverse effect.
The State responded with a 20-page demurrer expressing numerous objections, many technical or procedural. The case is set for hearing March 30 in the Siskiyou County Superior Court. I won’t try to predict the outcome, but I have to give Mr. Intiso credit for hanging in there. Will it end up like Davy Crockett at the Alamo? I hope not.