River Run or River Ruined
Hydropower or Free-Flowing Rivers?
“MOVE TO YOUR LEFT SO I can get more of the dam.” Dale could barely hear Karen's instructions above the roar of water cascading over the sixty-foot spillway into the gorge below.
“That's perfect. Now either smile or look appropriately somber for the camera,” Karen joked as she snapped three pictures in quick succession.
Karen Henson was a writer and photographer for the Coos Bay Courier, a small daily newspaper whose front-page headlines usually featured local baseball teams and arts festivals. Neither she nor Dale had made the hour's drive and the twenty-minute hike to the lovely viewpoint just above the Chapman Gorge Dam on the Coquille River for any chamber of commerce snapshots, however. Karen was working on a series of stories on the rapidly moving plans of the Coos County Public Utility District, the dam's owner and operator, to sell the fifty-year-old structure to the electrical giant Pacificorp for rehabilitation. A major task stood in the way of the successful exchange of ownership. The dam was coming up for relicensing proceedings by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In a hearing the following week before the FERC investigators, the two parties would make their case for the deal. They would face passionate opposition from others who thought the project was little more than a bad idea.
For Karen, this was high drama and well worth several articles in the Courier, along with profiles of the major players—including Dale. Dale Laney was a fourth-generation citizen of Coos Bay, a city of twenty thousand people in the coastal basin of southern Oregon. Dale's father, now