Tomorrow Siskiyou County supervisors will vote on a resolution to oppose the removal of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. The county may also decide to opt out of the Klamath settlement agreement altogether. Representatives from Siskiyou County have been involved in the talks over the past two years — although, at first they weren’t invited to the table — and have consistently voiced concern about what could happen if the dams are taken down: Property values for houses located on reservoirs created by the dams (three out of the four dams on the Klamath are in Siskiyou County) could drop in value by as much as 50 percent, according to reports by the county assessor and the Karuk Tribe cited in a recent article in the Siskiyou Daily News.
Reached on his cellphone on Friday afternoon, Siskiyou County Counsel Frank DeMarco said that Siskiyou County’s concerns over dam removal have been on the table since day one. He described the county as “ground zero” in terms of feeling the effects of dam removal. Not only would property values decrease, but there would also be a “huge reduction of tax revenues,” he said. “That document,” he said, referring to the Restoration Agreement, which has been hailed as nothing short of historical in the national press in that it brings together diverse interests including fisherman, tribes and farmers, “is no place close to what I would have liked to have seen.” DeMarco described opposition to dam removal in Siskiyou County as overwhelming. “It isn’t even like 60/40 … it’s probably 90/10,” he said.
But Humboldt County Supervisor Jill Geist, who has played an active role in the settlement talks, is non-plussed. Reached last week, she described the county’s announcement as “not surprising.”
“We realize that for Siskiyou County this represents a pretty significant change in their landscape and politically it would be pretty difficult for them to agree with,” she said. Nonetheless, it’s not catastrophic as far as the future of the agreement is concerned, according to Geist. “Does it stop things? No,” she said.
In fact, it could even end up backfiring on Siskiyou County. According to Geist all of the settlement groups agreed to a condition early on that stipulates that not signing onto the final agreement means you don’t get your slice of the funding pie. In short, there will be no restoration aid for Siskiyou County from the almost $1 billion funding stream created by the agreement.
Still, if the situation for the county is as dire as they say it is, they might not need the restoration agreement funds — they’ll need disaster relief instead.