OREGON, US-BASED PACIFICORP has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a postponement of the ruling on the removal of the 38.1m high Condit dam on the White Salmon river. The utility, a subsidiary of Scottish Power, UK, says it remains committed to the settlement reached with conservation groups and government agencies in 1999 to remove the dam. But the company says it needs more time for PacifiCorp to build up a fund of US$17.2M for the clean up operations and to blast a 3.7m by 5.5m hole at the base of the dam by 2006. The utility wants to remove the dam rather than pay an estimated US$30M to install fish ladders, which would be a condition of having the dam’s operating licence renewed.

FERC will release a final environmental impact statement on the proposal later this year, and it must find a way to allow PacifiCorp to operate the dam until surrendering its federal licence in 2006.

Attorneys for Skamania and Klickitat counties, meanwhile, argue the commission should not agree to cap PacifiCorp’s dam-removal cost at US$17.2M, as it is not enough. The counties, which stayed out of the settlement process under the assumption that the dam would be left in place, vehemently oppose dam removal, as do 52 lakeside cabin owners and anglers who worry they will lose prime trout fishing in the 2.7km northwestern lake behind the dam.

Critics maintain PacifiCorp’s ‘blow-and-go’ plan will cause environmental problems in the 4.8km between the dam and the White Salmon river’s confluence with the Columbia river. They say PacifiCorp should dig out much of the estimated 1.8Mm3 of sediment behind the dam before taking it down. However, this would be even more expensive than the cost of installing fish ladders, which would eliminate the utility’s economic incentive to remove the dam.