Featured News, Siskiyou

There’s a Time to Complain, and a Time to Say Thanks!

New sign on Copco Road at mile post 9, cattle guard at Iron Gate Lake

As citizens it’s easy to point out what’s wrong and complain to our elected officials. But that must be balanced by pointing out what they are doing that is right.

As the Rolling Stones song proffered: 

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (‘KRRC’) has arguably engaged-in all sorts of trickery, propaganda, extensive organized campaigns of distributing misinformation, and God only knowns what else in promoting the removal of the Klamath River Dams, which has become a public project by definition (the ‘Project’).

The takings and devaluation of private property and assets by any public project, requires the legal process of Eminent Domain, where citizens are reasonably compensated for losses due to devaluations of private property.

The shifty business model that was crafted by the people behind the dam removal Project was designed to leave private property owners holding a sack of dung. The Project totally disregards their rights and well-being, and is arguably illegal and a violation of the rights of an entire class of citizens under Federal and California State law.

The funding of the Klamath Dams removal using public funds from Oregon and California taxpayers makes the Klamath Dam Removal and its related necessary projects, a ‘public project’, not a private project. 

Indeed, the removal of the Klamath Dams started-out as a private project when PacifiCorp collected monies from rate payers with the intent to remove the dams themselves. 

But that all changed when the dam removal proponents convinced Oregon and California governors to use public funds to fund the lion’s share of the dam removal costs and unknown liabilities, thus changing the nature of the project from a private project to that of a Public Project.

In broad terms; a public project is defined as; project that is financed by a government and is typically owned, and may be operated by the government.

It’s ironic that private property owners impacted by the removal of the Klamath Dams are suffering from the misuse of their own tax dollars, which are being used to devalue and degrade their properties and lifestyles.

Moving On:

Just tiny part of the egregious fallout from KRRC’s arguably illegal Dam Removal project, is the destruction of Copco Road due to extreme use stemming from the Dam Removal related projects. 

Copco Road runs along the north side of the Klamath River from Interstate 5 at exit 789 to Iron Gate and Copco Lakes. The road was not engineered to handle anywhere near the continuous heavy truck and equipment traffic that is being imposed by the Project. Moreover, many employees and vendors from outside the community are also using the road, which is literally crumbling under the loads. 

On June 11, 2023, after speaking and corresponding with various Siskiyou County officials, as well as speaking with the project superintendents for the Fall Creek fish hatchery project, I wrote an email letter to all concerned parties requesting consideration of a suggested partial solution; a reduction in the speed limit on Copco Road from 35-MPH to 25-MPH from mile post 9 to mile post 20, which is arguably the most fragile part of Copco Road and was already heavily damaged.  (SEE LETTER BELOW)

Some Good News: 

It seems there are people sympathetic to the situation and needs of the citizens using Copco Road, as evidenced by the following recent actions on the road:

1.    25-MPH speed limit signs have been installed on Copco Road from mile post 9 to mile post 20. The result is that most people (trucks/equipment) are driving slower.

2.    Signs warning of livestock (horses) on the Open Range and on, around, and crossing the road.  Deer and elk are also crossing the road. 

3.    A road repair crew has started patching Copco Road. The crew is currently around mile post 7. We are experiencing delays of about 15 minutes in each direction, but citizens are glad to see the road being patched. And we hope the repair crew will make it up to Copco Village (approx. mile post 18).

In closing, I for one, would like to acknowledge and thank these people:

1.    Angela Davis – CAO Siskiyou County

2.    Ray Haupt – Supervisor Dist. 5 Siskiyou County

3.    Tom Deany – Director Siskiyou County Public Works

4.    Heath Bauer – General Superintendent Kiewit

5.    Jason Askim – Project Superintendent JrMerit

6.    Jeremy Lipke – Engineer Siskiyou County Public Works

7.    Copco Fire District / Copco Community Club

8.    Siskiyou County Water Users Assn & Richard Marshall

9.    Sheriff Jeremiah LeRue

William E. Simpson II

Wild Horse Ranch

================—–Original Message—–
From: William E. Simpson II <[email protected]>
To: Jason Askim; Heath Bauer
Cc: County officials, citizens
Sent: Sun, Jun 11, 2023 6:36 pm
Subject: Klamath Dam Removal Project & Local Citizens

TO: Mr. Heath Bauer – General Superintendent – Kiewit

       Mr. Jason Askim – Project Superintendent – JrMerit

RE: Adverse Impacts of Construction Related to Klamath Dam Removal Project & Fall   

       Creek Fish Hatchery Construction

Via Email Only 

Dear Heath & Jason:

I want to thank both of you gentlemen for taking the time to meet with me to discuss the issues that we are jointly facing, which are stemming from the Removal of Klamath River Dams and the construction of the Fall Creek Fish Hatchery (the ‘Project’).

Background to understand Citizens Feelings:

Citizens have already had their Constitutional rights violated by the ‘takings’ of this publicly funded, public project (using public funds makes the Project a ‘public project’).

The proper course for the ‘takings’ (losses by Citizens due to devaluation of private property) in regard to the Project should have been a process of Eminent Domain, under which, citizens would have at the least been paid the going value of their affected private properties.

As it stands, citizens are not being made whole and the so-called inadequate mitigation fund will not be allowed to accomplish payments that offset the devaluations of private properties…

In other words, Citizens are being forced to absorb their losses sustained by this Public Project.It is a transgression that we realize is not of your making. You are here to do a job that will be done in any event.

As you are aware, the Citizens who live along Copco Road and the affected Lakes (Iron Gate and Copco Lakes) are facing numerous challenges to their health, safety and welfare, combined with the significant financial impacts that are resulting from the Project.

It’s ironic that their own tax dollars are being used to devalue and degrade their properties and lifestyles.

Unsafe Driving by Vendors, Contractors and Employees: 

As we are aware, there is a component of the vendors/contractors as well as salaried employees who are exceeding the posted speed limit signs on Copco Road, east of the Klamathon Bridge. I have clocked loaded semi-trucks doing 45-50 MPH. And pickup trucks doing 50+MPH.

The posted speed limit of 35-MPH from the Klamathon Bridge to the top of Iron Gate Dam at the cattle guard (mile post 9) is generous given the road condition, which is deteriorating weekly do to traffic and loads that far exceed the design parameters of Copco Road. 

From mile post 9 on Copco Road at the cattle guard on the top of Iron Gate Dam, and east from there to mile post 20, the chip asphalt road is very seriously degraded (lose chunks of payment, rock, gravel, etc.), with many hazards (deep pot holes, etc.) that are so numerous, they render the road into a gauntlet for passenger cars. 

In many locations, including on the many blind corners around Iron Gate Lake, there is barely one narrow lane bordered by serious hazards on both sides, forcing vehicles onto the very narrow strip of degrading pavement. 

Given these road conditions from mile post 9 thru mile post 20 around Iron Gate Lake, the posted speed limit of 35-MPH is arguably far too fast. 

As Mr. Bauer knows, I recently had a pickup truck nearly hit me head-on, on one such curve. 

Many weeks ago, I was run off the road into a muddy shoulder by a speeding semi in the center of the road on a blind corner, and was nearly stuck in the mud. 

Recently, a cement truck flipped coming out of a corner speeding on Copco Road at Iron Gate Lake. 

Other citizens that have reached out to me have had similar experiences. One long-time resident told me that he hit a deep pothole that he didn’t see and the shock of the impact caused his exhaust system to break off his truck, causing $400.00 in damage.

So it’s merely a matter of time until someone is seriously injured, or killed.

We know with certainty that there are still too many vendors, subcontractors and employees who are speeding. 

We also know that some (not all) of the salaried employees are speeding. 

In fact, 2 different employees (I won’t disclosure names of the companies or employees) have told me that they want to get down the mountain as fast as they can since they are on salary and already working 12-hour days. So naturally they feel like they are losing more unpaid time by going slow enough to make passage on Copco Road safe. 

For my part, I am installing dash cameras on my two vehicles to record events, such as I have already experienced. And I am encouraging area Citizens to do the same by going to Amazon and purchasing this inexpensive but very effective unit:

Screenshot 2023-06-11 at 6.20.32 PM.png

My suggestion for Kiewit and JrMerit is to voluntarily agree with Siskiyou County Public Works on a stipulated construction speed limit from mile post 9 thru mile post 20 that has a maximum speed of 25-MPH. And then brief all vendors, contractors and employees on the importance of this safety measure.

A 25-MPH Speed Limit around the lakes would accomplish the following, much to the benefit of all parties:

1. Speed impacts (jackhammering) the road, especially now that the chip asphalt is crumbling and falling-away from the road bed in many areas on Copco Road around the lakes. 

You will need the road in good shape going forward, just as much as Citizens do. The damaged road is causing abnormal wear and tear on YOUR vehicles as well, and that will increase your project costs, and potentially, time to completion.

Science shows that by slowing the speed of vehicles, especially heavily loaded trucks, slows the ongoing degradation of what’s left of the road.

2. Response Time for EMS, FIRE and Evacuation. As it stands, the horrific condition of Copco Road (especially around the Lakes) will significantly increase the response times for EMS, FIRE and Emergency Evacuation.

Prior to the Project’s start, a resident from Iron Gate Lake (off Copco Road) could safety travel to a hospital in Yreka in about 45-minutes. I know, I have driven the road for the last 9-years regularly. An ambulance dispatched from Yreka would require about 1.5-hrs. round-trip.. just outside what medics called the ‘Golden Hour’ (reaching the ER within an hours enhances survival. As time increases past that 1-hr. odds for survival from a serious injury or heart attack fall with each addition minute… minutes count!)

Now, traveling at a speed (lower) that is safer given traffic and failing road conditions (25-MPG max around the lakes), travel time from Iron Gate Lake to Yreka is about 1-hr, which means total time for an ambulance from Yreka to reach Iron Gate Lake area and return to the ER in Yreka is at least 2-hours!  That added response time is as a direct result of the degradation of our community’s road due to the Project.

3. A 25-MPH SPEED LIMIT around the lakes will help compliant drivers to maintain a slower speed, and as a result, a longer head-on closure-time for two vehicles approaching each other from opposite sides of a blind corner. This slower closure time will allow for more reaction time to enable braking and avoidance measures.  

As such, potential liabilities stemming from serious accidents between Citizens and Contractors will be statistically reduced.

4. OPEN RANGE LIVESTOCK:  Siskiyou County is a CA registered Open Range County, and the lands around the lakes are part of the legally defined Open Range. On this Open Range, we find (and have) domestic animals and livestock. Livestock are protected by codified CA Law and Open Range policies. 

If a contractor, or employee hits livestock as a result of driving down Copco Road at any speed, that person (and company) has liability to the owner of the livestock for the market value of the animal if killed (at the minimum, some animals have added values), and or costs for veterinarian care. 

This can amount to thousands of dollars for the treatment and/or the loss of the animal (a horse for instance) plus, the damage to the vehicle and any injury to the driver is on the driver, and potentially the company for which a driver works.

Livestock on Open Range are blameless if they are injured or killed when crossing or walking on the road and are struck by a vehicle. The entire liability rests with the driver and or his/her company.

DOT statistics show that incidents with livestock and wildlife on roads is reduced incrementally as a function of reduced speed limits.  A 25-MPH agreed speed limit around the lakes is logical from this perspective as well.

5. Noise and Dust:  The quality of life for the people who live around the lakes has been reduced by the noise and dust from the vehicles that are part of the Project, and was negligible prior to the Project.

The volume of noise and dust increases almost at a logarithmic rate with the speed of a truck, especially heavy trucks.  That noise and dust can be reduced by slowing the ambient traffic.

Citizens of the area around the Lakes are faced with the hardships that will definitely accompany the Project now, and going forward for many years. 

Citizens have already had their Constitutional rights violated by the ‘taking’ of this publicly funded, public project (using public funds makes the Project a ‘public project’).

The proper course for the ‘takings’ (loses due to devaluation of private property) in regard to the Project should have been a process of Eminent Domain, under which, citizens would have at the least been paid the going value of their affected private properties.

As it stands, citizens are not being made whole and the so-called mitigation fund will not be allowed to accomplish payments that offset the devaluations of private properties…

In other words, Citizens are being forced to absorb their losses sustained by this Public Project. 

So, by putting yourself into their shoes for a moment or two, you can imagine how battle worn and scuffed-up the Citizens are. 

So when vendors or contractors act uncaring, indignant or downright rude (as has happened), Citizens react as any normal person would… with disdain.

As someone who loves my community and has served it and my Country, I ask for your compassion and understanding for the Americans here who are literally taking it below the belt every day now, and from here on in.

Let’s all try to work together to ease the pain that these mostly retired Citizens are feeling. 

Helping us with this request for a voluntary reduced speed posting to 25-MPH on Copco Road around the lakes (Mile Post 9 thru Mile Post 20), will help. 

And it’s a step in the right direction that benefits all parties.

I know you men as educated gentlemen and I am respectfully asking for your help as outlined.

As you consider my request, please consider these additional inconveniences that will be faced by our Community:

*Our wells (hundreds of homes/ranches) will likely go dry.  

This means spending $-hundreds/mo trucking water over decaying roads for basic necessities. Many people will not be able to afford that. 

Well companies won’t even come out and set-up to explore for water for less than $10,000.00 up-front and then you pay by the foot $60-70/foot. And they are many months behind on work. And finding water, even by drilling an existing well deeper is a crap-shoot.

*Our property values (homes and lands around Copco and Iron Gate Lakes) are depressed and dropping like lead balloons. Lands once worth $-thousands/acre, will likely settle out at less than a $1,000/acre or much less… what’s land without water?

*Properties down-river from the dams will lose their flood insurance, and likely suffer damages in coming winters. 

*The last thing we needed was to have 7,027 acres taken off our Tax Roles and made into State lands, because the County failed to pursue the ownership of those properties as partial settlement for the loss of the beneficial uses provided by the dams, lakes and 45-billion gallons of water to our County, its Citizens and our visitors.

*The potential of having defined ‘Open Range’ AG lands annexed and rezoned to some form of conservation zoning flys in the face of our grazing traditions and heritage as an Open Range County.

*The drained lakes will be covered with thousands of dying & dead fish, turtles and amphibians, which will suffer stuck in the mud, under the hot sun, and die suffering. Other mammals trying to reach water to drink will get caught in the mud and perish as well. We have to witness that. 

And then as they decay, we have to suffer the smell of decaying organic materials in the muddy lake basin, which will eventually turn to fine dust of decayed animals, mixed with clay dust, that will fill the air of this one lovely mountain valley during the daily adiabatic and katabatic winds.

Thank You for your consideration.

Respectfully Yours, 

William

Ph: 858. 212-5762Capt. William E. Simpson II – USMM Ret.
Founder – Exec. Director – Wild Horse Fire Brigade
Ethologist – Author – Conservationist  
Wild Horse Ranch 
P.O. Bx. 202 – Yreka, CA 96097
Creator: Wild Horse Fire Brigade (https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.org/)

Author @ HorseTalk
Member:  IMDb
Muck Rackhttps://muckrack.com/william-e-simpson-ii

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