Water Board Decision May Force Klamath Dams Removal
By Greg King
excerpted from the March 2009 issue of EcoNews
California decided late last month that PacifiCorp will not be allowed to side-step provisions of the federal Clean Water Act that require dam owners to obtain a “clean water permit” before their projects can be relicensed.
In a much-anticipated decision, the California State Water Resources Control Board announced its intention to move forward with the creation of a draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) to evaluate the water quality behind PacifiCorp’s three dams in California.The board’s decision was a setback to the energy company’s attempt to delay the required processing of its application for a federal clean water permit, known as a “401” permit. PacifiCorp has said it may withdraw from dam negotiations if the company is required to concurrently fund the 401 process and the negotiations. The delay was requested by several, but not all, parties negotiating with PacifiCorp to remove four dams on the main stem of the Klamath River. Few observers believe that the water behind PacifiCorp’s three dams in California — Iron Gate, Copco I and Copco II — can qualify for a 401 permit, given levels of toxic microcystin that measure 4,000 times higher than what the World Health Organization has deemed a “moderate” human health risk.
No Permit, No DamsWithout the permit, PacifiCorp will not be issued a new license to operate the Klamath Hydroelectric Project, which could lead to decommissioning and removal of the dams. ..