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US environmentalists appeal against relicensed dams

A coalition of five environmental groups has filed an appeal challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) decision to relicense the Leaburg and Walterville dams, on Oregon’s McKenzie river in the US.

The appeal was filed on the grounds that hydro power generation harms fish and degrades the water quality of one of the state’s most important rivers.

The coalition – comprising American Rivers, Pacific Rivers Council, Friends of the Earth, Oregon Natural Resources Council, and WaterWatch of Oregon – contests FERC’s decision to allow the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) to divert most of the McKenzie river’s flow out of the stream channel for power production for the next 40 years.

The coalition says that more than 13 miles of important spring chinook and bull trout habitat will be affected by the low flows and high water temperatures inherent in the new licence, and says that FERC rejected the recommendations of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The new licence calls for EWEB to install more than US$12M in fish protection and recreation improvements in the project area.