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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Klamath Restoration Delayed Again as Dam Removal Negotiators Fail to Meet Deadline

Oregon Wild reacts to further delays, additional flaws in proposed settlement deal

Will the Klamath ever be restored under the current proposal?

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Portland, Ore Jun 30, 2009

Negotiators from Oregon, California, the US Department of Interior, and the utility company PacifiCorp failed today to meet a deadline for finalizing a plan to remove four aging dams on the Klamath River. After tentatively agreeing to a dam removal deal in November 2008, the parties had set a June 30 deadline for finalizing the agreement. This most recent delay continues the pattern of false-starts and setbacks that have confronted the secretive talks begun six years ago under the auspices of the Bush administration.

Comments from Steve Pedery, Conservation Director with Oregon Wild:

“Since these negotiations started we’ve seen multiple commercial salmon fishing closures, toxic algae blooms on a yearly basis, and the continuation of harmful agribusiness practices in the Upper Basin. This most recent delay goes to show that if we keep talking in circles, we will never be able to restore this river.

For two decades, Oregon Wild has been committed to finding a balanced solution for the Klamath Basin that would remove harmful dams, restore the National Wildlife Refuges to their purpose of providing habitat for migratory birds, and put enough water in the river to ensure we don’t see a repeat of the 2002 fish kill. The current dam removal proposal would not achieve these goals and this delay is further proof that we need a new and equitable process. It is time to hold PacifiCorp accountable instead of letting them pull the strings while everyone holds their breath for six years.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard backers of this deal say that a final agreement is ‘right around the corner,’ I’d have enough money to pay for dam removal myself.”

A spokesperson for Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski hinted that dam negotiations would be finalized by the end of the summer, but PacifiCorp representatives said no new timeline had been discussed. Meanwhile, Iron Gate, Copco I, Copco II, and J.C. Boyle dams continue to operate on annual licenses with minimal interim conditions required to improve habitat for fish. The furthest downstream dam on the river, Iron Gate, was constructed in 1962 without fish passage and has blocked over 300 miles of salmon spawning habitat ever since.

Even without today’s delay, questions surrounding the tentative dam removal timeline have been raised. The Agreement in Principle (AIP) signed in November called for dam removal to begin no sooner than 2020 with a feasibility study to be conducted before a 2012 deadline. Independent studies have already documented much of the economic and ecological rationale behind dam removal, making the added studies and delayed timeline worrisome.

In addition, the AIP attaches potential dam removal to the harmful and controversial provisions of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA)—a draft document released to the public in January of 2008. The KBRA would guarantee water for commercial agriculture in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Irrigation Project without providing a similar guarantee to threatened fish species. The KBRA would also lock in damaging commercial agriculture on 22,000 acres of land inside the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. Not hearing their concerns over these issues addressed, several groups have abandoned the KBRA negotiations in the past several months.

To see a timeline of Klamath dam removal negotiations, click here.

For more background on the faults of the KBRA, click here.

To see a press release on a successful settlement between Oregon Wild and PacifiCorp over the Klamath’s Link River Dam, click here.

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