Klamath Dams to be Removed Under New Deal

PacifiCorp, U.S., California and Oregon sign agreement

November 13th, 2008

Steve Rothert, American Rivers, 530-277-0448 (cell)
Amy Kober, American Rivers, 206-213-0330 x23 

Please visit www.AmericanRivers.org/Klamath for related documents and information.

Nevada City, CA — In a historic milestone, after years of negotiations with American Rivers and other parties, PacifiCorp has agreed to remove four dams on the Klamath River, as part of a broader effort to restore the river and revive its ailing salmon and steelhead runs and aid fishing, tribal and farming communities. When the dams come down it will be the biggest dam removal and river restoration effort the world has ever seen.

The Agreement in Principle released today is intended to guide the development of a final settlement agreement in June 2009 and includes provisions to remove PacifiCorp’s four mainstem dams in 2020, a century after the construction of the first dam, Copco 1. Dam removal will re-open over 300 miles of habitat for the Klamath’s salmon and steelhead populations and eliminate water quality problems caused by the reservoirs.

Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers made the following statement:

“We have not popped the champagne cork yet, but we have put a bottle on ice. The initial agreement is a huge step toward a healthy Klamath River Basin.  American Rivers looks forward to working out remaining details in the final negotiations.” 

“This will be the world’s biggest dam removal project. But ultimately, this isn’t about tearing down dams. It is about restoring one of the most important rivers on the west coast, boosting local economies, and revitalizing fishing, tribal and farming communities.” 

“By removing these dams, PacifiCorp is making a responsible decision and will save its customers money. With this commitment in place, there is no turning back.”

Specific provisions of the agreement include:

  • PacifiCorp agrees to contribute as much as $200 million to cover the cost of removing its four dams and restoring the river.  Dam removal funds would be obtained from ratepayers in Oregon and California before removal begins.  The impact to customer bills will be less than 1%. 
  • If the costs of dam removal exceed PacifiCorp’s contribution, California and Oregon together would contribute up to $250 million.  Current estimates of dam removal costs range between $75 million and $200 million. 
  • In accordance with all applicable environmental laws, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior will assess the method and impacts of dam removal, and will make a final determination on the benefits and costs of dam removal by March 31st, 2012. California and Oregon will make similar determinations shortly after the federal government. 
  • Federal legislation will be required to implement provisions of the initial agreement. The legislation will establish the transfer of the dams to the federal government, although an independent third-party will be identified to actually remove the dams. 
     

PacifiCorp’s four dams produce a nominal amount of power, which can be replaced using renewables and efficiency measures, without contributing to global warming. 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.

American Rivers has played a lead role working with PacifiCorp and other stakeholders to find a lasting solution for the Klamath and its communities. The 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.  


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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 an 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.