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Dam Removal is Fishy Business

Oct 16, 2015 — by: Dennis Linthicum
Categories: Culture, Economy, Energy, Regulations, Natural Resources, Politics

Last Friday, I was on Bill Meyer’s Radio Show discussing the KBRA/KHSA agreements. Bill asked Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams, former Shasta Nation Vice Chairman Gary Lake, and myself to provide insight to the apparent support for dam removal from Oregon’s only Republican House member Greg Walden.

Unfortunately for Rep. Walden, he can’t have it both ways. He can’t pretend to work for rural American values while flushing our property rights and precious fresh-water resources into the Salty Pacific.

Not only does the KBRA and KHSA take water resources from Klamath and Siskiyou counties and the Rogue Valley, but it sets precedence throughout the United States. These measures, if successful, will instruct others on how to successfully use political power to transfer private wealth into collective interests’ pockets. The KBRA/KHSA represents the classic “Divide and Conquer” paradigm: tribes against agriculture, project irrigators against non-project irrigators, wind and solar interests against ratepayers, business cronyism against taxpayers, and finally, the Endangered Species Act against the rest of us.

These agreements are bad for property owners, ratepayers, and taxpayers. They may result in a tidal wave of dam removal efforts across the US, because they ignore facts and propose feel-good measures that can’t possibly achieve their utopian goals.

20 Reasons Why the KBRA/KHSA Does Not Work


  1. Ratepayers will pay in excess of $1 billion to remove the private assets of PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway investment empire.
  2. Ratepayers will pay unknown costs for replacing the 155 megawatts of cheap, clean, renewable hydro-power electricity with other more expensive forms of energy.
  3. The Department of the Interior has recently offered to transfer nearly 100,000 acres (156 mi.2) of the Fremont-Winema National Forest back to tribal ownership. The Fremont-Winema National Forest was originally created following the termination of federal recognition of and government services to the Klamath Tribes. The 1954 Klamath Termination Act also paid $41,000 to each of the 1,659 enrolled tribal members (68 Stat. 718). In current dollar terms this would equate to $362,667.10 for each of those tribal members. This would be the equivalent of transferring more than $601 million (current dollars) for the creation of the Fremont-Winema forest.
  4. The dams are at an elevation which is 2,500 feet lower than Klamath’s agricultural basin. The dams are also between 50 and 60 miles downstream from the Klamath agricultural community’s interests. Because of these two facts, anyone can see that Klamath Basin Agriculture has no explicit need for the dams, in or out. The farmers in the Klamath Basin have signed on to this agreement in an effort to preserve their established water-rights which were diminished through the preposterous twisting of administrative water regulation by the State of Oregon.
  5. The agreements do not re-establish agricultural water rights for farmers. The agreements only propose that tribes will not fully exercise their new-found water rights. This is the meaning of the phrase, “water-certainty,” within the agreements. No guarantees of water delivery are explicitly identified.
  6. The water delivery schedule still has a descending priority. First, to fish, second to the  environment, and lastly, to agriculture. Water deliveries are still subject to tribal calls on the water, new endangered species mitigation, new biological opinions regarding current mitigation, and revised regulatory decisions about allocations to existing uses.
  7. The Biological Opinions used for determining water requirements for endangered or threatened species run contrary to scientific evidence. The complex eco-system for maintaining flows and lake levels can be better accomplished with dams left in place. Otherwise, we risk creating a fishy version of the Barred Owl against the Spotted Owl, or the Pacific salmon verses the Harbor Seal in the Northwest. Which of these identified species will win the crown: Lost River Suckers, Shortnose Suckers, Redband Trout, Steelhead, Chinook or Coho salmon? Destroying the dams can’t possibly resolve the conflicting priorities across competing species.
  8. Economic viability of agricultural enterprises will be continually undermined in favor of land idling (using tax-dollars to buy idleness from farmers), out-right bankruptcies, fire sales to environmental or land conservation groups, while leaving the land to its original non-irrigated, pre-historic, high-dessert uses.
  9. Recent year salmon fish counts far exceed (by 100%) any recorded salmon counts from pre-dam construction years.
  10. Cool, voluminous water flows are good for fish and wildlife habitat. Non-seasonal water leveling and flow management can only be provided with dam infrastructure in place.
  11. The dams act as giant settling ponds, removing algae and tons of deadly toxins and other sedimentation which would otherwise foul the river system.
  12. Without the dams in place the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) will be stripped of necessary tools (i.e., river pulsing and flushing) for managing water quality and fish disease outbreaks.
  13. Destroying the dam infrastructures clearly violates the Clean Water Act. Does the problem disappear because there is an “exceptional discharge exemption?” No. It just becomes legal. Using this logic, regulating agencies could argue that a waiver was the only thing needed to appease the people living in the Animus River basin, where the EPA recently dumped 3 million gallons of toxic chemical waste.
  14. The “exceptional discharge exemption” focuses only on calculations for tons of concrete and rebar debris. However, there is no plan for managing the estimated 22.6 million tons of toxic sediment that is currently stored behind the existing dams. This volume is 1000 times more than the toxic Animus river discharge.
  15. Allowing federal contractors to poison downstream aquatic life and salmon spawning beds will create harmful conditions that may take decades to resolve.
  16. Before any studies were completed, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated that there was nothing PacifiCorp could do to get the dams re-licensed. This is the type of agenda-driven overreach that mimics the EPA’s predetermined rejection of the Pebble Basin Mine in Alaska.
  17. The “stakeholder” group was created through political, agenda-driven motives by Oregon’s disgraced former Gov. John Kitzhaber. Environmental special interest groups were deemed “stakeholders” with standing, exceeding the rights of private property owners and water right holders.
  18. Private property rights, in the form of water right holdings, become uncompensated “takings” under the agreements.
  19. The destruction of water and river front property value is a clear, unjustified and uncompensated  “taking” of private property.
  20. Public disclosures regarding the total costs to ratepayers and taxpayers is incomplete and disingenuous.

The KBRA and the KHSA agreements would be enormously expensive.  There is no budget for this money, so it must be borrowed from our children’s futures. Will these untapped natural river resources provide our posterity with the means for servicing this debt? Do these expenses solve the real problems? Can these costs be justified?

Oregon’s only Republican House member, Rep. Walden ought to listen to his conservative peers, like  Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) instead of following in the footsteps of our states far-left, progressive liberals, Sen. Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Merkley (D-OR), Rep. DeFazio (D), et al.

In November of 2011, Rep. McClintock, gave his summary of the poorly engineered KBRA/KHSA agreements:

Amidst spiraling electricity prices and chronic electricity shortages the effort to tear down four perfectly good hydroelectric dams at enormous cost to ratepayers and taxpayers is insane. These dams produce up to 155 megawatts of the cleanest and cheapest electricity on the planet – enough for 155,000 homes.

“Proponents say it is necessary to tear down the dams to help increase the salmon population, and yet we did that a long time ago by building fish hatcheries. The problem is that hatchery fish are not included in the population count. And to add insult to insanity, if the Iron Gate Dam is torn out, the result will be loss of water needed to operate the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery, which produces five million salmon smolts every year.

“Fortunately, congressional approval is necessary to move forward. The full House voted earlier this year against proceeding with the Klamath dam removal. That [2011] precedent, and a $13 trillion national debt {now, $20 trillion] speak volumes on the chances of this legislation passing in the House over the next year.”

What was true then, is true today. That’s the nature of truth, it doesn’t change with the tide.

     “The American farmer is in a situation today that can be solved. The solution is not one of governmental policies that create short-term “fixes” for the farmer. The best method to let the farmer prosper is the same solution that would let the other parts of the economy prosper. Government must remove the burdens placed upon the individual. The individual must be allowed to compete on an equal basis to become competitive with his peers.”

Edgar Terry, a fourth-generation farmer in Ventura, California


  1. Of first importance is, a much deserved thank you and encouragement to “The Dirt Road Economist” for laboring on our behalf by gathering and presenting information that keeps us, the manipulated and mislead public, from otherwise be kept in the dark, and darkness is where evil flourishes. After reading this extensive, well written, and some what exhaustive examination of the proposed idea of removing dams that not many years ago were built to control destructive water flow, solve problems of food production and development, and as a bonus, provide cheap ecologically sound electricity as a bonus, is preposterous. The most troubling part of this debate is that some group has an agenda that is not completely known and is valuable enough to them to try to sell such a bad idea to enough well meaning people as to create the illusion that the majority will benefit from this damaging move. Who is this group and what is the real motive and why is it not revealed? These questions take me back to my earlier statement about darkness and evil thriving. Hopefully “The Dirt Road Economists” spotlight of truth will help others to see that those who went before us were not ignorant and uncaring, and just because an idea is new does not mean it is good. Life is made up of choices. Good decisions are the result of considering all the facts and proceeding at a pace that allows for thought. Let’s not allow fast talking con artists to sell us something that we don’t need or want.

  2. For the record, Rep. Walden is in the pocket of the windmill interests who want to place windmills all over the rural areas of Oregon. Rep. Walden will not back down from his perch as long as these windmill interests are investing in his candidacy. Until he is removed from office, we can expect the same from him.

  3. Another fabulous piece of information you have provided here. I also stand behind you with the recent attack in the H&N with regards to that fine editorial piece you had this last week. Keep the good fight Dennis as you have many followers. Regards, Lisa

  4. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent article Dennis. All yur points are right on! Keep up the good work.

  5. Talk of DAM removal is out and out Treasonous talk against our Country and a sure sign of corruption and betrayal period! Recognize the threat and never back down!

  6. Your item #11 could also state that the reservoirs and slower water passage rates with the dams in place give blue/green algae additional time to bio-remediate the naturally high phosphorus in the Klamath River water. The Klamath River dams are not blocking fish access in a typical river—the Klamath River is unique in the World with exceptionally high phosphorus water and rock parent material in the Upper Klamath River watershed. This situation makes the dams in this particular case unusually useful to make an otherwise phosphorus challenged river a much more functionally productive fishery with much reduced P in the water flowing downstream to the ocean. The bulk of the ’sediment’ behind the dams is dead blue/green algae cells in a muck of potentially very high value as crop fertilizer or biomass for electricity generation (and its renewable), or both, in addition to the continuous hydroelectric power produced by the dams. Walden has shown his colors for decades—he needs to go like many many Republican-classified Congressional representatives. Our representative form of government no longer exists because of senior Congressional representatives that have as their primary goal of keeping their jobs and going with the flow of the other representatives in States like California, Oregon and Washington where the big city Democrats have full control over rural agricultural regions. The time has come for 51!

  7. Tom McClintock is a good man… and the idea that we should tear down perfectly good hydroelectric dams which produce clean renewable energy IS INSANE.. THE IDEA NOT TO COUNT HYDROPOWER AS RENEWABLE FORM OF ENERGY IS LIKEWISE INSANE.

  8. During WWII it was a tremendous blow to an enemy if one of their dams were taken out. They were always a huge target since they not only provided flood control (that’s back when people were aware that the weather and its moods were always and naturally in a state of dangerous flux) but also irrigation assets, potable water, transportation and electricity in the sort of quantities that were essential to sustain a military as well as a domestic population. Fortunately we made it through WWII with out losing a single dam. Now all it takes is a touchy-feely earth religious Marxist, our own naive populace and a darn fish to accomplish what the Axis Powers could not. Ironically dams are even more critically important to our security then they were in the 40’s. Yet when you think about it the current outrageous internal terrorist dam threat isn’t all that surprising, since the rest of our nation’s priorities have also gone to Hell in a hand basket. So how many dam fools does it take to destroy the greatest nation the world has ever seen? I don’t know but I am getting the distinct impression that we just may have enough. At this rate our Nation’s epitaph will probably read; DAMNED BY DAM FOOLS. Still loosing the Nature vs. Humanity war, go figure. Finnious

  9. Wind power as a source of reliable electric energy is a myth and these structures are being abandoned now that the rax credits have been captured and used to shelter income by companies like GE. Solar power uses photo voltaic cells made from silica. More energy is consumed in the manufacturing process than the cell can possibly generate in its lifetime. Perpetual machines are a myth.

  10. Hi Rodney. That’s absolutely right and all of their policies (unless I’ve missed something) appear to be based on myth, fussy feelings and lies. Unfortunately the masses (or lumps) that are tuned in to big Left media swallow it all hook line and sinker. I even get the impression that in the extreme they probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a 6.75 hp Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine and a locomotive. They are after all both engines? Further, in listening to their nonsense many are truly ready to throw away all that sustains us before there are any real and viable replacements or options available. They have strong feeling you know. I cannot stress how scary this is since the Russian Navy is hanging around our under sea communication cables while they buzz our boarders with their Bear bombers and press us in the Middle East and on and on. In the mean time the push is still from within to discourage meat consumption, dams, factories, irrigation, suburbs, single family dwellings, technology, non-government ownership of anything, capitalism, individualism, military strength, fossil fuels, SUV’s, Christ, Walymart, McDonalds, smut free entertainment, morality, honesty, commercial agriculture, legal immigration, genetic plant enhancement (except in dope cultivation), conservative values, monogamist relationships, toy guns and soldiers, child discipline, corporal punishment, putting guilty criminals instead of innocent babies to death, striving for and earning one’s education and place in life, personal hygiene and grooming, fire arms, speaking proper English and on and on. Yet hold on, maybe there is just a chance that they could actually generate sufficient national power, security and nutrient by standing in a huge circle while humming; if you’re going to San Francisco be sure to put some organic fertilizer in your hair. Yes I know, that won’t really work but it would at least keep then busy, happy and our of our hair long enough to save our embattled nation. Finnious

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