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Interior recommends removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric projects

Klamath River

The U.S. Department of the Interior has released its final evaluation of the potential removal of four PacifiCorp-owned hydroelectric projects along the Klamath River in southern Oregon and northern California.

In its final environmental impact statement, Interior recommended the full removal of the 90-MW J.C. Boyle, 20-MW Copco, 1.27-MW Copco 2 and 18-MW Iron Gate.

Their fate now awaits congressional action before the Secretary of the Interior can make a determination of whether the hydropower projects' removal is in the public interest, according to an Interior release.

The report takes into account the "impacts and benefits across a broad spectrum", Interior said, including the proposal's ecological, aesthetic, historic, cultural, economic, social and health effects. It also analyzes various scenarios should some or all of the facilities be left in place.

"The EIS released today, considered in combination with the previously released Overview Report, represents the most comprehensive scientific, engineering, and environmental evaluation of facilities removal ever undertaken in the Klamath Basin," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "The preferred alternative finds that removal of the four facilities and implementation of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement are important components of a durable, long-term solution for local communities and tribes to advance the water and native fishery resources of the Klamath Basin."

The study was conducted as part of the Klamath River Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), which was signed in February 2010 by more than 40 entities. These groups included the states of Oregon and California, PacifiCorp, three American Indian tribes, irrigation communities, fishing groups and other non-governmental organizations.

The KHSA called for a "robust scientific and environmental evaluation of the potential removal of these facilities," Interior said, as part of a large-scale effort to restore natural fish production, establish reliable water and power supplies, and support communities along the river.

Having fulfilled its part of the agreement, Interior has now called upon Congress to pass the legislation needed to enact a plan supporting its recommendations.

"Congress, local stakeholders, and the public have a comprehensive analysis upon which to develop and enact a legislature solution to the ongoing, complex challenges in the basin," Salazar said. "We need a comprehensive solution addressing all the needs of the Klamath River, including fisheries, agriculture, refuges and power."

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