Figures should count, two-thirds oppose Klamath dam removal

By Sen. Doug Whitsett (Distr. 28)
for the Independent
The United States Department of Interior held a listening session Tuesday , Oct. 18 at the Klamath County fairgrounds to determine public opinion regarding their plans to decommission and demolish the four PacifiCorp owned hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. We estimate that the event was attended by between 300 and 400  people during the course of the evening.

By our unofficial count, 72 people spoke at the microphone. Twenty people, or 28 percent, spoke in support of dam removal. Of those 20 supporters five were identifiable as Klamath Project irrigators, two of which farm primarily in Oregon and three that farm primarily in California. Four supporters identified themselves as Klamath Tribal members or their employees. Two either are or have been employed by Sustainable Northwest and another is employed in water restoration projects.

Fifty two people, or 72 percent, spoke in opposition to dam removal. Of those 52 supporters, 16 were identifiable as project irrigators, 14 of which we believe farm primarily in Oregon and two who farm primarily in California. No Tribal members or their employees opposed dam removal. One Klamath City Councilor, one Klamath County Commissioner, and state Senator Doug Whitsett spoke in opposition to dam removal as well as three candidates for the Klamath County Board of Commissioners. No local elected official spoke in support of removing the dams.

In May of 2009 Rep. Garrard, Rep. Gilman and I commissioned an independent telephone poll to determine the level of support for the removal of the four hydro electric dams on the Klamath River.

We three legislators, who represent the entire Klamath River watershed in Oregon, privately paid the cost of the professional poll performed by a licensed polling firm, Target Market Strategies located in Portland, Oregon.

Target Market Strategies independently wrote the questions and randomly selected 300  Klamath County registered voters to participate in the poll.

The poll achieved a statistical confidence of 95  percent. That level of statistical confidence means that if the poll were repeated 100 times, the same results would occur 95 out of 100 times.

The poll determined that 65 percent of Klamath County residents opposed the destruction of the hydroelectric dams at that time.

There was no statistical difference in the response among those polled in Chiloquin, Klamath Falls, Merrill, Malin or Bonanza. Respondents uniformly opposed dam removal by a two to one margin.

There was no statistical difference between age groups, or the sex of the respondents, or among political party affiliation. Across the board two out of three Klamath County residents opposed the demolition of the hydropower project.

Supporters of dam destruction have attempted to minimize the poll. Some of the same folks have hired high powered public relations firms to attempt to sway public opinion toward accepting the destruction of our hydroelectric infrastructure. County, state, federal and tribal governments, as well as media outlets, have had both adequate funding, and the opportunity, to develop their own public opinion polls.

The professional 2009 public opinion poll conducted by an independent Portland firm cost less than $5,000. Yet in more than two years, no one has published a poll that even attempts to contradict that two-thirds level of public opposition to dam removal.

In the fall of 2009 the same three legislators sponsored and held two public listening sessions at the Klamath County fairgrounds. At that time it seemed apparent that supporters of the destruction of the Klamath River hydroelectric infrastructure unofficially boycotted those listening sessions. In fact, some of those supporters actually scheduled a luncheon with some local elected officials at the same time as the long scheduled afternoon listening session.

Nevertheless, the two sessions were attended by well more than 300 people. Both oral and written testimony was accepted. More than 90 citizens expressed their opposition to the removal of the Klamath River dams including no less than 20 project irrigators. No one testified in support of the destruction of the hydroelectric infrastructure.

The only logical conclusions are that the 2009 legislative poll was not only accurate but that the two-thirds level of opposition to the destruction of our hydroelectric infrastructure remains viable and vocal.

My personal philosophical opposition to the destruction of our nation’s hydroelectric infrastructure is well known. However, my responsibility to listen to the people that have I been elected to represent is much more important than my private opinion. Two thirds or more of those people have been consistently voicing their strong opposition to dam removal for well more than two years. I will continue to try to represent those peoples’ judgment so long as I am privileged to represent them in the Oregon Senate.

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