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Opening Up the Klamath River

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Nearly 30 different interest groups have agreed to the tentative removal of four dams on the Klamath River which runs through Oregon and California. For environmentalists, Native Americans, fisherman and many many others, this is great news.

The dams, which were built between 1918 and 1961 and are currently owned by the Pacific Corporation, were used to produce electricity and provide irrigation waters. However, one of the unintended effects of such dams is they prevent salmon from returning to the streams of their origin after two or three years in the oceans, where they instinctively spawn or lay new eggs for a new generation of salmon. In turn this decimates the salmon population which has for many generations provided a livelihood for Native American tribes in this region.
At this point the agreement goes to the Department of the Interior where Mr. Ken Salazar is charged with studying the full ramifications and effects and determining if the proposed removal is indeed in everyone's best interest, including the salmon.

The fact that 29 different interest groups have effectively given their nod to the removal is very significant. The study, which must be completed by 2012, should provide the final go ahead. The actual removal process would not begin until 2020. While 2012 and 2020 seem like a long way off, no doubt there is a lot of planning and groundwork — no pun intended — to get this project successfully underway.

The projected cost of $450 million is to be covered by a surcharge via the Pacific Corporation to its Oregon and California customers, and bond money. The fed will be in charge of the removal of the debris.

This is a very significant step. To me it means that 29 different groups were able to get together and hammer out an agreement that will be beneficial, if not to all, then certainly to most. Yes, it will be slow process and honestly I have no idea at this time just how long these talks have been going on, but I suspect for several years. Slow process, but it works, not a shot was fired — that I know of.

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About Jerry Wilkinson