PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Federal regulators on Thursday threw a significant curveball at a coalition that has plans to demolish four massive hydroelectric dams on a river along the Oregon-California border to save salmon.
A deal years in the making would require PacifiCorp to transfer its hydroelectric license to a non-profit commission that has been established to oversee the removal of the dams on the Klamath River. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved only a partial transfer of the license and says PacifiCorp must remain a co-licensee.
That could upend the agreement because PacifiCorp doesn't want any liability in the removal process.
California Congressman Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing a large part of northern California, issued a statement on Thursday applauding the FERC decision and lambasting the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), the group looking to take on and oversee the dam removal project, as a "shell corporation."
“The commission’s order today reinforces what I have been saying since KRRC’s inception: KRRC is incapable of handling any hydropower project," Rep. LaMalfa said. "Rather, KRRC is nothing more than a shell corporation created for California, Oregon, and other supporters of dam removal to avoid liability and leave local communities to clean up the mess they would create."
"This order clears the way to stop this terrible project without wasting more of California taxpayer funds or Oregon ratepayer dollars," he continued. "PacifiCorp should instead pursue relicensing of all four Klamath dams, ensuring the Basin continues to receive ample carbon free, clean power for years to come.”
The KRRC issued only a brief statement in response to the FERC ruling once it came down on Thursday: “KRRC is reviewing the FERC order with our partners to determine next steps.”
The dam removal project concerns four PacifiCorp dams — J.C. Boyle, Copco, No. 1 & 2, and Iron Gate. The KRRC includes buy-in from multiple organizations representing fishers and fisheries, as well as the Karuk and Yurok tribes of the Klamath Basin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.