US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Monday his determination on Klamath dam removal will be postponed. The original deadline for the decision had been set for March 31.

Siskiyou County Supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff were told of the delay  before it was officially annouced while in Washington DC lobbying against dam removal.

The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement  – one of the two main stakeholder settlement agreements outlining the steps and requirements for dam removal – stipulates that Salazar review all relevant scientific and economic data to determine if dam removal will advance restoration of Klamath salmon and be in the public interest. However, before he can make the determination, Congress must first pass legislation authorizing Salazar to do so.

That legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate in November, but no action has been taken on it yet.

A press release issued by the Department of the Interior stated Salazar’s staff will be meeting with parties to the dam removal agreements in order to determine the “next steps,” and though a determination will not be made by March 31, the final studies and environmental analysis will be released this spring.

The majority of the county supervisors have been vocal in their opposition to dam removal, and have repeatedly stated that the environmental and economic reviews of the process are deeply flawed.
The board recently announced its intent to sue the federal government if the secretarial determination proceeds under the current set of circumstances.

“The County appreciates the Secretary’s reconsideration of the timing of his determination,” states a press release from the Siskiyou County Counsel’s office.

A group of dam removal advocates and agreement signatories – including the Karuk Tribe, Klamath Tribes of Oregon, Trout Unlimited, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, California Trout, Klamath Riverkeeper, American Rivers and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations – issued a press release in response to the DOI’s announcement.

“Folks here in the basin decided that we couldn’t wait on Washington to solve our problems, so we got together and worked out our own solutions,” Humboldt County commercial fisherman Dave Bitts said in the release. “Now congress is dragging its feet while both farmers and fishermen face the risk of bankruptcy.”

The release by dam removal advocates also states that the looming drought provides an even greater incentive to pass the necessary legislation so the Secretary can act.

“If the agreements were in place today, farmers and fishermen would be in a better position to survive the upcoming drought,” the release said.