Point of Cook-Kobseff DC trip questioned

Felice Pace, guest opinion

On July 30th, the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers reported on a trip to Washington DC by Siskiyou County Supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff. According to the report, authored by Dale Andreasen, the purpose of the trip was to “hold discussion with the staffs of US Senators and members of the House of Representatives” in order to “make their case for keeping the dams.”

It is difficult to imagine what this trip could possibly accomplish. Congress plays no role in whether or not the dams will be relicensed or removed. PacifiCorp owns the dams and if the company decides it is in its shareholders’ interest to remove them there is nothing that Congress can do to prevent them from doing just that. Furthermore, even if PacifiCorp decides to continue the quest to have the dams relicensed, it is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and State Water Resources Control Board which must approve the license – not Congress.

Seen in light of these facts, the Cook-Kobseff DC trip looks like little more than political posturing at the expense of Siskiyou taxpayers. Since these two supervisors constantly complain about lack of funds, one wonders how they can justify a trip which appears geared to their own political careers and not to the interests of Siskiyou citizens.

Because PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams and powerhouses are old and obsolete, because it is unlikely the dams can legally be certified as complying with water quality standards and because of PacifiCorp’s recent behavior, it appears that the company has decided to get rid of the dams. If this analysis is correct, the only questions now are: Who will pay for their removal and what else will be included in dam removal financing legislation. Under these circumstances Siskiyou County supervisors should be working to get something into the deal that benefits Siskiyou County residents rather than posturing against dam removal.

What might that “something of benefit to Siskiyou County residents” be?

When Dwinnell Dam and Reservoir (aka Lake Shastina) was built in 1928 an alternative considered was supplying irrigation water to the farms and ranches around Montague with water from the Klamath River. The reasons that alternative was not pursued is shrouded in the mists of time. What we do know, however, is that Dwinnell/Lake Shastina has not provided consistent irrigation water deliveries to Montague Area farms and ranches. In many years a full irrigation season is not provided because not enough water enters the reservoir; this year is a good example. Dwinnell is also plagued with water quality and human health problems – including mercury contaminated fish and toxic algae. 

If the Siskiyou Supervisors were on the ball they could negotiate a change in point of diversion for the Montague Water Conservation District from Dwinnell to the Klamath River as part of a dam removal deal. This would help Shasta Valley Agriculture and clear the way for removal of Dwinnell Dam – an action which could help struggling salmon runs more than removal of the Klamath Dams.

Such a move would indicate a Board of Supervisors in Siskiyou County which understands politics and knows how to play the political game in a manner that advances the interests of its citizens and key industries.

The Siskiyou Supervisors, however, show no indication that they possess the political interest and skills necessary to achieve such a result. Instead Jim Cook, Michael Kobseff, Bill Overman, Marcia Armstrong and LaVada Erickson appear content to sing to the choir by posturing against dam removal.   

Siskiyou voters should show these supervisors that political posturing is no substitute for real work in service to the county, its citizens and their interests.

The best way to do that would be for the citizens to vote them out of office the next time they are on the ballot. 

• Felice Pace lived in Siskiyou County from 1975 until 2005. He currently resides at Klamath Glen near the mouth of the Klamath River. Felice blogs on Klamath River issues at:  http://klamblog.blogspot.com/