Wednesday, January 19, 2011
It isn't a huge topic of conversation locally, but the Klamath River Restoration debate should be a concern even for local farmers and community members.
The Klamath River runs from southern Oregon through Northern California and reaches to the Pacific. Along the path are several dams installed over a period of about 60 years.
Those dams provide hydroelectric power and enable farmers to thrive.
Why should those of us living in central and southern Washington be concerned with an issue that affects people a state away?
Because, what happens there could very well occur here. The debate began nearly six years ago when Pacific Power wanted to relicense the dams along the Klamath. Environmentalists argued against the relicensing, citing the dams should be removed to enable salmon to thrive.
This issue has been a topic of concern for those dependent on water in both the Snake and Columbia rivers from time to time. Proponents of dam removal have used salmon runs as a basis for argument many times.
Four dams along the Klamath are slated for removal and much of the associated costs are to be paid by Pacific Power's rate payers, as well as those paying taxes.
One dam, Iron Gate Dam near Hornbrook, Calif., generates enough power to supply electricity to three northern California counties.
Could we, too, lose a dam in this region? Most certainly.
Environmental groups and Native American tribes that are arguing for the removal of some of the dams that supply electricity and the ability to irrigate land in the region are gaining thresholds in our courts.
What perplexes me is that environmental groups seem to argue both sides of the debate. The argument for "green energy" has been a hot topic in recent years and hydroelectricity is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of power. Environmental groups want us to use electric-powered vehicles, but if we haven't the electricity to power those vehicles, what good will it do us to purchase said vehicles?
Also, I wonder how the agricultural community and the nation's food supply would be affected if the dams are removed.
Would we even have local food products if there isn't a sufficient water supply?
With a lack of food, malnutrition and poverty due to high food prices would substantially impact those who are dependent on the agricultural market. Agriculture, after all, generates approximately $40 billion for Washington.
I just tend to wonder if the intent of environmental groups is to eliminate the human population. I have witnessed the demise of communities in the past because of decisions handed down in favor of environmental groups. The spotted owl controversy in the early 1990s decimated many communities dependent on the logging industry, for instance.
A careful balance must be maintained to serve the interests of habitat and humanity. I tend to wonder if environmentalists become so intent in their demands that they become myopic and do not realize the unintended consequences of their actions.
As the Klamath River debate continues, it will be interesting to see the final outcome. Because it may mean other rivers and dams become the next target, including those located along tributaries Yakima Valley residents have come to rely upon.