September 20, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Salazar: Dam removal will cost far less
Sep 21, 2011
Salazar: Dam removal will cost far lessBy Marcus Wohlsen / The Associated Press
Published: September 20. 2011 4:00AM PST
SAN FRANCISCO — The cost of removing four dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon will be far less than first believed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday as he worked to rally support for several massive federal water projects.
An environmental report to be released Thursday will show that the proposed removal project will cost about $290 million, not $450 million as initially estimated, Salazar told an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
“We today have real hope for a healthier basin and stronger economy on the Klamath,” Salazar said.
The dam removal proposed for 2020 is part of an agreement to restore historic salmon runs while maintaining irrigation for the region’s farmers by dismantling the hydroelectric dams.
Three of the dams are in Northern California and the fourth in Southern Oregon.
PacifiCorp clients footing removal cost
More than 550,000 Oregon customers of Portland-based dam owner PacifiCorp are paying an extra 2 percent per month on their electric bills to cover the cost of dam removal. The utility’s 40,000 California customers will soon start to see the same surcharge.
The drastically lower cost will not mean lower utility bills for those customers, since PacifiCorp is on the hook for the first $200 million the removal will cost under the terms of the removal agreement, said Bob Gravely, a company spokesman.
The state of California has agreed to cover any costs above the first $200 million.
The dams generate enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes. PacifiCorp was confident alternate sources to make up for the loss power could be found by 2020, Gravely said.
The draft environmental impact statement will show that removing the dams will cost about 50 jobs, all tied to generating electricity at the dams, Salazar said. Removing the dams would create about 4,600 jobs, including about 1,400 for the dam removal itself and between 70 and 695 farm jobs owing to a more reliable water supply, he said.
An advocacy group for the region’s farmers said they believed the number of farm jobs created by the dam removal would be even higher.
“We believe that the draft EIS numbers underestimate the jobs and gross income that farming and ranching provides to the (Klamath) Basin,” said farmer Steve Kandra in a statement issued by the group, Partnership to Restore Stability and Prosperity to the Region.
The report will show that Coho salmon will reclaim nearly 70 miles of historical habitat and steelhead 420 miles, Salazar said.
The secretary said he planned to make a final decision by March 2012 on how to proceed with the dam removal plan.
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