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U.S. agencies mandate fish passage for four Klamath River dams

The Interior and Commerce departments issued final fishway prescriptions January 30, mandating upstream and downstream fish passage construction at four dams of PacifiCorp's 161.338-MW Klamath project in Oregon and California.

The fishway prescriptions, which must be included in any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower relicense, are similar to the agencies' preliminary prescriptions in March 2006 that called for fish passage at the 18-MW Iron Gate, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2, and 90.338-MW J.C. Boyle developments.

However, the fish agencies said the final prescriptions provide a lower cost alternative for downstream passage at Copco 1, and a less prescriptive approach for tailrace barriers and spillway modification.

The agencies rejected PacifiCorp's original long-term adaptive management trap-and-haul alternative and a later contingency proposal that reflected PacifiCorp's desire to reach a less expensive compromise for fish passage on the Klamath. (HNN 12/22/06)

PacifiCorp had filed its alternative fishway prescriptions under terms of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act requires the resource agencies to adopt alternative prescriptions that are less expensive and equally protective of the resource. However, the agencies were unmoved.

�After conducting a full analysis, the departments concluded that PacifiCorp's alternative was less protective than the departments' joint proposal for volitional fish passage for these facilities,� the agencies said.

The agencies said they took into account: findings of fact issued by an administrative law judge; FERC's draft environmental impact statement for the project; alternatives to the agencies conditions, proposed by PacifiCorp and the states of Oregon and California; and public comments.

PacifiCorp: Alternative would have achieved goals at less cost

PacifiCorp has said the agencies' preliminary license conditions for fish passage at the four dams could cost as much as $200 million. PacifiCorp has operated the project under a temporary annual license since its original FERC license (No. 2082) expired March 1, 2006. The original license had no provision for fish passage.

PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme said the utility was disappointed in the decision. He said the second set of alternatives offered in December would have accomplished what Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Commerce's NOAA Fisheries want for migratory fish in the Upper Klamath Basin.

�Our revised alternative provides criteria for fish screens at all four Klamath dams and a fish ladder at one of them, J.C. Boyle,� Kvamme said. �Additionally, we propose trap and haul around each of the lower three dams as a means of introducing fish in the project area.�

Manager Rod McInnis of NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Region, called the prescriptions a major step toward restoring hundreds of miles of historic salmon and steelhead habitat above Iron Gate Dam. He said they would restore 58 miles of habitat for chinook, steelhead, and lamprey, including 46 miles of habitat for threatened coho salmon. The agencies said fish passage also would create an opportunity to return salmon, steelhead, and lamprey to more than 300 miles of historic habitat above the project.

Utility awaits FERC EIS, settlement talks

PacifiCorp awaited FERC's issuance of a final environmental impact statement for the project, which the utility said would provide a better understanding of what might be included in a relicense.

In October, FERC staff issued a draft EIS that rejected the resource agencies' original proposals to mandate fishway construction at the four dams. Despite that opinion, FERC itself has no authority to reject Commerce and Interior's final prescriptions.

Kvamme said PacifiCorp still might be able to negotiate a more favorable solution with the resource agencies and stakeholders.

�We continue to believe that the separate settlement process is a better venue for finding solutions to complex environmental issues in the basin,� Kvamme said.

Additionally, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski have called for a Klamath summit.

�We welcome political leadership in this process, because the environmental issues in the Klamath Basin go well beyond the hydro project,� Kvamme said.

The Klamath project has four additional developments: 3.2-MW East Side, 600-kW West Side, 2.2-MW Fall Creek, and non-powered Keno Dam. PacifiCorp's original relicense application proposes decommissioning East Side and West Side, and excluding them and Keno Dam from the relicensed project.

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