Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt wrote a letter, dated May 17 to the secretary of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking her to rescind the previous administration's letter of support, as it was “unnecessary.”
Opponents of dam removal feel validated after the Trump administration’s recently appointed Secretary of Interior withdrew a 2016 letter which supported the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt wrote a letter, dated May 17 to the secretary of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking her to rescind the previous administration’s letter of support, as it was “unnecessary.”
“The letter was meaningless when it was submitted, and there was no meaning when it was revoked,” agreed Matt Cox, communications director for the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the agency overseeing dam removal.
Withdrawing the letter “has no affect on the (dam removal) project whatsoever,” Cox added.
The move, however, was hailed by the Siskiyou County Water Users Association and Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who said the “course-reversal ... is a big victory for those fighting this misguided dam removal and a positive development for Northern California – we need to support new and existing water infrastructure projects, not tear them down. Siskiyou and Klamath Counties have voted overwhelmingly to retain the dams. I thank Secretary Bernhardt for using input of local citizens who are adamantly against this project to make this important decision.”
Cox said the letter was never required and the Department of the Interior remains a signatory on the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.
The Siskiyou County Water Users believe the letter’s rescission may indicate “a more balanced approach” to Klamath River issues.
LaMalfa said he spoke to Bernhardt before he was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior and he made it clear to him his wishes for the 2016 letter’s retraction.
The letter was written by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to Kimberly D. Rose, secretary for the energy commission.
“This letter and enclosures are being filed in support of those applications, which I respectfully ask the commission to approve” Jewell wrote in the letter. “The recommendation and determination I am making today are not entered into lightly. Rather, I do so in reliance on the most comprehensive and robust analysis of dam removal ever undertaken.”
The Siskiyou County Water Users said they have filed a Motion to Dismiss with FERC contending that the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement is illegal “as it does not conform to the US Constitution Compact Clause.”
Their attorney, James Buchal, said the Siskiyou County Water Users Association isn’t disputing FERC’s power to grant or deny hydroelectric power licenses.
“However, FERC’s own regulations ... require FERC to determine the ‘qualifications of the transferee to hold such license,’” Buchal said.
He believes that KRRC is not qualified “because it was created in violation of federal law,” citing a compact clause of the constitution that says no state may enter into a compact with another state without the consent of congress.
“California and Oregon did enter into an agreement (along with some federal agencies) to allow KRRC to take the license and remove the dams,” Buchal said. “But the agreement is illegal, because congress has approved a different agreement, creating the Klamath River Compact Commission, and granted that commission ... jurisdiction over the Klamath Basin.”
Siskiyou County Water Users Association said while this is not the end of the process, “it does open the door for a more intelligent recognition of the importance of the dams to Siskiyou and Klamath counties and to the citizens in both states who occupy the area which will be most affected by the destruction” of the dams.