Up the Dammed Klamath River

The Klamath River 2016 with 2023 Update by Paul Richards


Up the Dammed Klamath River: Water Is Life

Dam Removals Are Now 2023

“Between June and September 2023, the first and smallest dam, Copco #2, will come out. In January 2024, drawdown of the reservoirs will initiate. By the end of 2024, all four dams will be removed, and restoration work will begin and continue well beyond 2024.”

California Trout http://caltrout.org>News

“Northern California river advocates and tribal groups have been fighting for more than two decades for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. Their victory late last year set the stage for the removal project to become the largest of its kind in U.S. history. Now is a particularly good time to learn about it, as preparations are already underway for the first dam to be removed starting in June.”

Ashley Harrell, SFGATE

“Over the past few decades as the river’s health declined, citizens of the Klamath Basin challenged one another in courtrooms and before government agencies to protect their families, communities, environment, and ways of life. Hardship and conflict escalated in 2001, when the federal government cut water deliveries to farms to protect endangered fish. The following year, nearly 70,000 adult salmon died in a catastrophic fish kill. This 2002 major loss of juvenile salmon productivity later resulted in widespread and costly in-river and ocean salmon fisheries closures.

“However, Klamath Basin residents did not ultimately retreat into conflict. Instead, leaders with different interests in the river began developing collaborative solutions to restore river health, as well as address many broader stakeholder concerns.  Ultimately, Congress did not enact a broad community-based proposal.  But one key piece of the broader Klamath agreement is moving forward: a plan to remove the four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River through the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA).

“PacifiCorp decided to work with stakeholders on an agreement to remove the dams under terms that provide cost protections and certainty for customers in lieu of investing in expensive upgrades to comply with federal water quality and fish passage regulations. PacifiCorp’s decision to sign the KHSA has also been affirmed by both California and Oregon public utilities commissions.

On September 23, 2016, PacifiCorp and the KRRC began implementing the KHSA by submitting applications to FERC. Following the FERC public process and pending FERC approval, PacifiCorp will transfer dam licenses to the KRRC. The KRRC will then manage the process to decommission and dismantle the four hydroelectric facilities and undertake risk management responsibility for the project. If approved, the KHSA will result in the largest river restoration effort in the nation – if not the world.

The KHSA is supported by governments, tribal nations, irrigators, fishermen, and conservation groups. We are hopeful that Basin stakeholders will continue working together to revitalize the Basin by seeking common ground and practical solutions.  One area of broad agreement in the Basin is that more robust runs of fish will benefit virtually every sector of the Klamath Basin – agriculture, tribes, tourism, recreation, conservation interests, recreational and commercial fishermen, the local economy and the ecosystem as a whole.”

Up the Dammed River, 2016, Klamath River at the Iron Gate Dam. Photo by Paul Richards
Up the Dammed River, 2016, Klamath River at the Iron Gate Dam. Photo by Paul Richards

Removing Four Dams on the Klamath River

Up the Dammed Klamath River explores the many challenges faced by the Klamath river as the time to remove four dams once owned by Pacificorps in northern California grows closer. It will be the biggest dam removal project ever in our history.

Removing four dams will not, however, restore the original undammed river. Salmon can hardly be expected to return to the Upper Klamath Lake when the only pathway open to them are the bruising narrow fish ladders that flank the Keno and Link dams, two dams that are not scheduled to go. Nitrogen heavy agricultural run off and urban pollution will not end when the dams go down. Nor will excessive water diversions onto farmlands that raise water temperature and deprive the river of water flows sufficient to sustain fish populations. Finding a way to bring the river back will involve everyone, especially the people in the watershed that spans two states and encompasses many conflicting groups. Restoring a healthy balanced river with abundant wildlife and protected watershed lands is fundamental to our future and reveals the truth — Water Is Life.

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