Proponents of removing the Klamath Dam — the largest dam removal project in U.S. history — are seeking to bypass Congress and use a nonprofit private corporation to decommission four hydroelectric dams by 2020, four of which are located in California, going directly through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“It turns out we don’t need Congress to remove dams,” Karuk Tribe Natural Resources Policy Adviser Craig Tucker said, according to the Eureka Times-Standard. “Congress has already passed the Federal Power Act and that gives us the power to remove dams without congressional approval.”
The new California-based Klamath River Renewal Corporation is reportedly planning to take control of the dams, which are owned by PacifiCorp, a Portland, Oregon based energy company where one of the four dams in question is located.
Proponents of maintaining dams argue that they preserve needed water, much of which comes from precipitation, from being lost and flowing into the ocean, and creating a reservoir for dryer days. Dams also create the potential for hydroelectric power and recreation. Opponents suggest dams prevent fish species from surviving and thriving as they otherwise would, as well as damaging the environment and interrupting other water uses downstream.
During a hearing in Washington, D.C. last week, Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, voiced his opposition to the move while questioning U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor about the federal agency’s role in creating the non-profit. “This seems like a front company in a process designed to avoid public scrutiny and avoid open government laws,” LaMalfa said on video. “The administration is moving forward with its goal of dam removal while ignoring the water supply issues that impact thousands of residents.”
LaMalfa also stated his intention to Connor to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to obtain copies of documents related to the “closed” meetings and stated “It is entirely inappropriate for public employees to participate in secret meetings and force those who lives could be impacted to sign nondisclosure agreements.”
The Triplicate reports that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the governors of California and Oregon will be in Klamath on Wednesday publicly to announce their plans for dam removal on the Klamath River.
According to a press release from the Department of the Interior, Wednesday’s “major announcement” will be “about environmental restoration, water reliability and hydroelectric dams.” It will reportedly take place on the boat ramp at the mouth of the Klamath River.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.