Along with dozens of letters urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to grant the Klamath River Renewal Corp. a license transfer—a necessary step to facilitate the removal of four dams on the Klamath River—a few groups and individuals are urging the agency to reject the transfer.

The comments are in reaction to KRRC’s most recent filing, which offers additional financial assurances and a new cost estimate of $433.7 million to remove the four lower Klamath River dams, provided FERC transfers the license and later allows KRRC to surrender the license for decommissioning.

So far, the Yurok Tribe, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the four U.S. Senators from California and Oregon have sent FERC letters supporting of the Klamath River Renewal’s recent filing and urged the agency to approve a license transfer to KRRC from PacifiCorp. The letter from Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Ron Wyden and Jeffrey Merkley states that timely removal of four lower Klamath River dams is critical to tribes, fishermen, recreational communities, farmers and ranchers. The filing “clearly demonstrates its financial ability and expertise to become the licensee of the Lower Klamath Project,” it says.

Many of the comments from flyfishing groups conclude, “The fish will come back if KRRC fulfills the dam removal and river restoration portions of [the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement], and although this is a complicated project, we are confident in KRRC’s ability to execute it to the highest standard.”

However, on Aug. 16, the Siskiyou County Water Users Association chimed in, calling into question the legality of the California bond funds set aside to help pay for the removal.

The SCWUA says that 79 percent of voters in Siskiyou County voted against removal of the dams, and points to lost property values and water for fire protection for those who live around the reservoirs. The letter also calls into question the completeness of KRRC’s answers to questions raised by a specially appointed Board of Consultants, and the adequacy of funds for river restoration.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a duty above all else to protect the public in this matter,” their letter states.

It continues, “FERC should NOT AGREE TO REMOVE LIABILITY FROM ANY OF THE PARTICIPANTS. PacifiCorp who has operated these dams for decades earning profits in the process should be held liable along with the States of Oregon and California for any damages to the public and shortfall from KRRC Insurance provisions,” it says.

The comment concludes, “The fact is that the public shouldn’t be the fall guy in this process especially when there is no scientific assurance that removing the dams would result in proliferation of Salmon and not in a giant disaster resulting in a biological superfund site.”

K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.