FERC staff get earful from public on Klamath project

Responding to public demand (and, in several cases, to direct requests from members of Congress), FERC staff held a series of meetings so that the public could raise concerns the Klamath project. The message they heard was loud and clear: restore the Klamath River and its fish.As of this writing, there are two scheduled public meetings remaining before the December 1, 2006 deadline for comments on FERC's draft EIS.

Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend these meetings. FERC also held several earlier meetings:

  • Klamath Falls, OR: November 14 (morning)
  • Yreka, CA: November 15 (morning and evening)
  • Eureka, CA: November 16 (evening)

All of these meetings appear to have drawn a large, diverse audience; the meeting in Eureka apparently drew more than 500, with a local paper (the Times-Standard) reporting that others were being turned away. From the Times-Standard article:

[S]peaker after speaker demand[ed that] the agency consider removing the dams instead of letting them continue to operate. [...] Repeatedly FERC staff was admonished for not analyzing removal of the four dams, and were called on to heed a recent California Coastal Conservancy study that holds that decommissioning the structures is not nearly as expensive as building fish ladders. They were also told that the federal document fails to address the cultural costs off the dams to American Indian tribes like the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk, or economic costs to fishermen.

This article in the North Coast Journal captures a particularly interesting moment from the Eureka hearing where one man stood up, introduced himself as a rancher and farmer, and led with some negative comments about environmentalists. But the real story is what he said next:

"We want FERC to know that we don't need these dams for our irrigation, or flood control, and that we are getting no benefit from the meager electrical output. We want FERC to know that the Klamath dams have not only lived out their usefulness as electric generators, they might have also lived out the life blood of the river: the salmon. If that happens and the salmon die, also dies the life blood to the soul of the Klamath's native peoples. That cannot be allowed to happen. We want to tell FERC that we will see to it that our neighbors are not stomped on, broken or bankrupted as we make sure these dams are decommissioned."

We're glad that FERC is taking the time to hold these meetings. We can only hope that they will listen carefully to what the public has to say. There's more information in these articles and press releases: