Current status of the dispute: In November 2007, FERC released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the renewal of PacifiCorp's contract for the Klamath Hydroelectric Program. In this final EIS, FERC considered PacifiCorp's proposed plan for the future of the Klamath Hydroelectric Development and several other alternatives, including i) providing further modifications to facilitate fish passage, ii) removal of Copco No. 1 and Iron Gate Dams, and iii) removal of J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1 and Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate Dams. After a cost-benefit analysis, FERC determined that the best of these options was to "issue a new license" which modified PacifiCorp's initial proposal with further "environmental measures" (FERC), including devices to improve fish passage.
As a best alternative to dam removal, the Yuroks and others opposed to the Klamath dams could get involved in the establishment of environmental modifications to dams (such as further improvements of fish passage) in PacifiCorp's new contract. Dam opponents could also build their coalition, communicate with hydropower users about the issues and help to find ways to meet the needs of water and electricity users without the dams. While the Yurok may use some electricity from the dams, they do not obtain the benefits from the hydroelectric dams that other electricity users do, because the Yurok depend on fish that are threatened by the dams. The Yurok and other dam opponents could build support for their cause by convincing other electricity users that they too can benefit from dam modification or removal. The Yurok (and others opposed to the dams) could encourage electricity conservation (among other ways, through increased energy-efficiency and modification of agricultural and industrial processes) to reduce the need for power generation.
Alternatives to hydropower, such as wind and solar, are also necessary to meet the needs of the diverse groups involved in the Klamath dispute. Further research will be necessary to determine which type or types of alternative energy are best for this region. In comparing different energy sources, people in the Klamath dispute should consider various factors, including cost effectiveness, different types of environmental impacts, environmental justice, and generation capacity. Hydropower has the advantage of being the only carbon-neutral source of power which can be turned on and off to adjust to fluctuations in demand. This flexibility can help California's problems with meeting peak demands. Given the benefits of hydropower to PacifiCorp and electricity users, the Yurok coalition may have difficulty persuading their opponents that the four Lower Klamath dams should be removed.
PacifiCorp's best alternative is to continue to seek a renewal of its dam contract from FERC while making small modifications in the dams to aid in fish conservation. PacifiCorp has proposed the addition of devices to aid in downstream fish passage (fish screens and a "gulper system", which would collect fish from the surface of the water) and upstream fish passage (fish ladders, fish locks, and a tailrace barrier). The height of some dams may limit the ability of fish ladders and other devices to facilitate fish passage, however, and the alternative of trapping and transporting the fish is usually an ineffective solution. The above dam modifications for fish passage would facilitate passage "for resident fish"; however, the effectiveness of the downstream fish passage system is undetermined. FERC's preferred alternative for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project (as FERC indicated in its final EIS) includes studies on migratory fish to improve the effectiveness of the fish passage systems.
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