A Northern California Indian tribe is threatening to shake up the Klamath Basin agreement. The Hoopa Valley Tribe is pressing for a halt to short-term relicensing of four dams on the river — a move meant to force a utility to take them down on its own.
The move comes as the tribe says a two-part restoration agreement and dam removal deal for the river is stalled.
The Klamath River and its largest tributary, the Trinity River, flow through the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s reservation. The tribe says the four dams upriver contribute to toxic algae blooms and salmon diseases, and have undermined its efforts to restore healthy salmon runs on the Trinity River.
Power company PacifiCorp owns the dams and has signed a deal, the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, that would remove the dams by 2020. The KHSA is linked to a broader river restoration and water rights settlement plan that must be approved by both the Secretary of Interior and by Congress.
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Thomas Schlosser, an attorney for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, says the tribe doubts Congress will ever approve the current dam removal deal.
“That legislation isn’t going to pass. It subordinates Indian water rights. It costs 800 million bucks. And it has a whole lot of other controversial provisions,” he says.
The tribe wants federal regulators to stop extending PacifiCorp’s short-term license to operate the dams, or to require the company to install fish ladders.
Bob Gravely, a spokesman for PacifiCorp, says the plan to remove the dams by 2020 is still on track, and upgrading dams slated for removal isn’t practical.
“It’s too soon to scrap the whole deal because congress hasn’t passed this in an election year in 5 or 6 months,” Gravely says.
In the meantime, he says, PacifiCorp is spending about $3 million a year on interim measures to improve water quality and fish habitat.
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