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Dam money could go back to customers

I have been paying $2 a month on my electric bill to Pacific Power for several years toward the removal of dams on the Klamath River. Now I hear that if Congress fails to act by the end of the year, the process to remove the dams will stop. If the dams are not removed, what will happen to the money they collected for that purpose? Could I possibly get my money back if I am fortunate enough to live that long?

—David P., Central Point

You’ve been paying the $2 since 2010, David, so by our rough calculations you’d be owed about $120 or so.

And, you’re right, the money is an agreement between public utility commissions in Oregon and California to remove dams along the Klamath. So far, Pacific Power has collected about $100 million of the $200 million it will ultimately receive from customer payments that are put into a trust fund for the dam removal project.

Bob Gravely, spokesperson for Pacific Power, said the dams would come out in 2020 once all the money is raised. But he said the U.S. Congress does appear to be having difficulties with continuing the dam removal process.

If Congress fails to act, the public utility commissions in the two states could potentially refund the money to their customers. Another option is to use the money to upgrade the dams to make them more environmentally friendly, including the installation of fish ladders, Gravely said. The upgrades would be required in order to obtain new licenses for the dams, he said.

What would happen with the money would be in the hands of the two utility commissions. “That’s their call,” Gravely said.

In other words, David, you could either get your money back, or it would be invested back into improving the dams so they could be re-licensed by the federal government. If they do decide to give it back, we hope you're around long enough to enjoy it.

—Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.