“I’m glad we got the attention of the administration and got them to pull back their tacit support for removing the dams,” LaMalfa said in a phone interview. “I had hoped it wasn’t going to be the policy of the Trump administration to remove dams. And this proves it’s not.”

Theodora Johnson

Western Livestock Journal

The U.S. Department of Interior has changed its tune on the proposal to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Northern California and southern Oregon.

On May 17, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt retracted his predecessor’s support letter for the dams’ destruction.

Back in 2016, the Obama-era Interior Secretary Sally Jewell penned a letter urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the removal of the dams, calling the process “a unique opportunity to restore this magnificent river.”

WLJ talked with Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01) in a phone interview Wednesday, May 22. He said he’d spoken to Secretary Bernhardt shortly before his confirmation, urging him to withdraw Jewell’s letter. LaMalfa has also spoken in person with President Donald Trump of the dams issue, he said.

“I’m glad we got the attention of the administration and got them to pull back their tacit support for removing the dams,” LaMalfa said in a phone interview. “I had hoped it wasn’t going to be the policy of the Trump administration to remove dams. And this proves it’s not.”

Hydropower is one of the best and cleanest forms of power, LaMalfa pointed out.

In a press release Monday, May 20, LaMalfa called the retraction letter a “big victory for those fighting this misguided dam removal,” adding that Northern California needs to “support new and existing water infrastructure projects, not tear them down.”

LaMalfa noted that Siskiyou County (home to three of the dams) and Klamath County (home to the fourth) have voted overwhelmingly to retain the dams.

Chilling effect on dam removal

While the Bernhardt letter is not a “decision document,” it could have a chilling effect on the proposed dam removal, as five agencies headed by Bernhardt—like U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation—will have to perform extensive analyses before the project can advance.

If FERC decides to move forward with the proposed project, a full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review will unfold, with the Interior agencies examining the potential economic and environmental impacts of the proposed project. Endangered Species Act (ESA) formal consultation will also be in order.

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