Klamath Dam Removal Agreement Sets in Motion World’s Biggest River Restoration Project

September 29th, 2009

<P>Steve Rothert, 530-277-0448 (cell)<BR>Amy Kober, 206-213-0330 x23</P>

Nevada City, CA – After years of negotiations, the 26 Klamath negotiation parties have reached agreement to remove four dams on the Klamath River to help restore the river and revive its ailing salmon and steelhead runs and aid fishing, tribal and farming communities. American Rivers played a lead role negotiating this historic agreement.

Once signed, the Klamath Hydropower Agreement will create a path leading to removing PacifiCorp’s dams in 2020, more than a century after the construction of the first dam blocked salmon and steelhead from reaching more than 300 miles of their home waters. 

Details of the agreement are below.

Steve Rothert, California Director for American Rivers, made the following statement:

“With this agreement from PacifiCorp, the finish line is in sight. The Klamath River and its fishing, tribal and farming communities will soon have the relief and the certainty they need for a healthier and more secure future.”

“When the Klamath dams come down it will be the biggest dam removal project the world has ever seen. It is exciting to see the momentum behind this historic river restoration effort – one that promises to not only restore the health of the river, but also boost local economies and revitalize communities.”

“By doing the right thing, PacifiCorp will save its customers money and help save the Klamath River.  Warren Buffet has a reputation for making wise decisions, and this decision to remove four outdated dams is no exception.”

“On the Klamath we will be able to watch on a grand scale as a river comes back to life. I am hopeful that these sustainable solutions in the Klamath Basin will become a model for other rivers around the country.”

“Many people thought we could never reach agreement, and some groups actively worked to stop progress in the Klamath.  But we all shared the conviction that this historic effort was too important to be derailed.”

About the agreement:

The agreement requires PacifiCorp customers in Oregon to contribute up to $200 million for dam removal and river restoration.  If project costs exceed this amount, up to an additional $250 million would come from California.  Estimates of dam removal and river restoration costs range from $75 million to $175 million.

The agreement also calls for the Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior to oversee further due diligence to refine removal costs and confirm by 2012 that dam removal and river restoration is in the public interest. This agreement and the affirmative determination pave the way to what will be the largest river restoration project in the world.

Today’s agreement also includes the following provisions:

  • PacifiCorp agrees to modify project operations and fund activities to mitigate project impacts and protect restoration of the Klamath and its tributaries until the dams are removed.  
  • Once the Secretary of the Interior determines dam removal is in the public interest and project permits are obtained, PacifiCorp will transfer the dams to the federal government for the purpose of dam removal.
  • Federal legislation will protect PacifiCorp against any liability that arises from dam removal, but PacifiCorp will retain liability for the effects of project operations since constructing the first dam in 1908.
  • The County of Siskiyou would receive up to $20 million to mitigate any possible adverse impacts to the county revenues.


PacifiCorp’s four dams produce a nominal amount of power, which can be replaced using renewables and efficiency measures, without contributing to climate change. A study by the California Energy Commission and the Department of the Interior found that removing the dams and replacing their power would save PacifiCorp customers up to $285 million over 30 years.

The dams, built between 1908 and 1962, cut off hundreds of miles of once-productive salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the Upper Klamath, which was once the third most productive salmon river on the West Coast. The dams also create toxic conditions in the reservoirs that threaten the health of fish and people.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimates that removing Iron Gate and Copco dams would save PacifiCorp customers almost $15 million per year. 

A separate Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement, announced in January, includes provisions for irrigation water allocations, delivery of water for national wildlife refuges, the rebuilding of fish populations and assistance to impacted communities. American Rivers, along with 24 other stakeholders, are parties to the Basin Agreement.



About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.