Benefits of Klamath Restoration
Dam relicensing presents an economic risk for PacifiCorp, as relicensing and upgrading the dams to meet current requirements was estimated to cost over $400 million in 2010. The KHSA defines and limits PacifiCorp’s economic commitment to $200 million. This cooperative approach saves time and money and provides certainty to ratepayers. Additionally, in 2010 both the Oregon and California Public Utility Commissions found dam decommissioning under the KHSA was in the best interest of PacifiCorp’s customers.
Water quality and fisheries improvements will also benefit coastal economies by substantially reducing the risk of fishery disasters, such as the complete commercial closure of 2006, which cost more than $100 million in economic losses. Improved fisheries will benefit commercial and recreational fishers alike.
The revitalization work will involve about 1,400 regional jobs, and healthy salmon runs would add an estimated 450 jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing industries in Oregon and California.
The impacts of dam decommissioning have been studied extensively by the U.S. Department of the Interior in the EIS/EIR process and in a further study summarized by the Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior. These studies have been vetted by the most rigorous review process available – three levels of peer review, culminating with the National Academy of Sciences.
Klamath salmon support commercial fisheries worth $150 million per year and local recreation industry that contributes millions to the local Klamath Basin economy. Dam decommissioning will improve the habitat and health of fisheries by allowing salmon, steelhead, and lamprey access to over 400 stream-miles of historic spawning habitat upstream of the dams. Decommissioning will also prevent stagnant reservoirs from increasing water temperatures in the summer and help alleviate the poor habitat conditions that contribute to fish diseases below the dams.
Klamath dams trap nutrient rich waters in shallow reservoirs. The result is massive blooms of toxic blue-green algae that pose a threat to wildlife and human health. The algae blooms also trap heat and deplete oxygen, further degrading water quality. Restoring the river will eliminate the reservoirs associated with algae blooms and improve water quality that will benefit the region’s wildlife, recreation, economy, and health.
There is a direct correlation between health of the Klamath River and health of the people who have for centuries depended on the river. Native American tribes in the Klamath Basin have depended on fisheries for their livelihood, health, and cultural practices since time immemorial. In recent years, poor river conditions have led to the diminished harvest allocations and fish kills. Restoration of the river will improve the lives, health, and economic well-being of those dependent on the river.
Farmers and ranchers in the region will continue to receive the same irrigation and flood control benefits that they do today. The dams which provide these services – the Link and Keno dams – will remain in place. In addition, the KHSA encourages all parties to develop new agreements to provide predictable water supplies and power rates for irrigators.
The KHSA benefits the public as a whole by reducing public spending on disaster relief. Over the past ten years, hundreds of millions in public dollars has been spent on emergency measures for fishermen, tribes, and farmers in response to rotating Klamath crises. Implementing the KHSA is one piece of the broader solution to resolve the root cause of these problems.
Photo credit: David McLain/Aurora