Klamath River

This is one of those almost-gets-by-with-no-one-noticing things that should be big news.

Oregon and California will sign a pact with two tribal nations and PacificCorp to remove 4 dams on the Klamath River.

Governor Kate Brown joined California Governor Gavin Newsom, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp in announcing “an agreement to provide additional resources and support to advance the most ambitious salmon restoration effort in history. The project, when completed, will address declines in fish populations, improve river health and renew Tribal communities and cultures.”

The American Rivers website puts it like this:

The four dams don’t provide flood control or irrigation. They generate a small amount of hydropower, which will be replaced using renewables and efficiency measures and without contributing to climate change. In 2008, the Public Utilities Commissions in Oregon and California concluded that removing the dams, (instead of spending more than $500 million to bring the dams up to modern standards), would save PacifiCorp customers more than $100 million.

This dam removal and river restoration effort will be one of the most significant the world has ever seen. Never before have four dams of this size been removed at once which inundate as many miles of habitat (4 square miles and 15 miles of river length), involving this magnitude of budget (approximately $397 million) and infrastructure.

Among the beneficiaries of the dam removals will be tribal, recreational, and commercial fishermen. Klamath River salmon runs were once the third-largest in the nation, but have fallen to just eight percent of their historic numbers since dam construction began in the early 20th Century. The major species affected are chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout, green and white sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey.

Iron Gate Dam, the first impediment to salmon on the Klamath River.

Excellent background from 2016 here:

This new agreement is particularly gratifying because an agreement that had been reached in 2010 – a more comprehensive one, in fact, including plans for dam-removal and large-scale restoration, plus a water-allocation settlement between fisheries and agricultural interests – expired in 2015 when Congress failed to pass implementing legislation. The 2010 “Klamath Agreements” were signed by more than 40 diverse stakeholders after a decade of protests, litigation and negotiation, and would have resolved century-old conflicts. Unfortunately, ideological opposition to dam removal by a few members of Congress triumphed over the economic interests of water users, and even the private property rights of the dams’ owner, PacifiCorp.

During the early days of 2016, however, PacifiCorp indicated that it would support dam-removal independent of the water settlement and restoration projects that were part of the 2010 Klamath Agreements, thus negating the need for new federal legislation. For three months, PacifiCorp staff participated in intense negotiations with stakeholders, including Klamath Riverkeeper.

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