A Deal, but not a Done Deal

The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) is expected to be signed by the end of 2009. But even when signed, this will not be a done deal.

It calls for the Secretary of Interior to do a scientific review to determine whether dam removal will meet the goals of restoring salmon fisheries and of serving the public interest. That determination is due in 2012. Dam removal would begin no earlier than 2020. This would be the largest dam removal/habitat restoration project in history.

The deal requires that a number of conditions be met prior to dam removal, including federal legislation  to implement it and the sale of $250 million in bonds by California, which has to be approved by voters. 

The KHSA is linked to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). The KBRA was negotiated by representatives of 28 stakeholders, including federal, state and county agencies; the tribes; irrigation, conservation and fishing organizations; and PacifiCorp. The two agreements are to be signed concurrently. But it is not yet clear which of the stakeholders represented by the KBRA  will support the dam removal plan. Issues that are still contentious include water allocations, water quality enforcement, habitat restoration for wild salmon before the dams are removed, and concerns about tribal sovereignty.

Public education is needed for the successful outcome of this process. The stakes are great: bringing wild salmon stocks back from the brink of extinction, restoring one of the great rivers of the West, replacing environmentally harmful hydroelectric power with benign renewable energy sources, and setting an example of consensus building to resolve conflicts over resource issues that can be emulated elsewhere. 

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