Big Step Forward on Restoring California’s Klamath River
American Rivers and our partners have been working since 2000 to remove PacifiCorp’s four obsolete dams on the Klamath River
On Wednesday, April 6th, American Rivers will join many other Klamath stakeholders at the mouth of the Klamath River on the Yurok Reservation in Requa California to sign two settlement agreements that will put the most significant dam removal and river restoration project the United States has seen back on track for completion in 2020.
Signatories will include U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, California Governor Edmond Brown Jr., Oregon Governor Kate Brown, PacifiCorp President and CEO, the Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke, Karuk Tribe Chairman Russell Attebery, other NGOs, farmers and commercial fishermen.
American Rivers and our partners have been working since 2000 to remove PacifiCorp’s four obsolete dams on the Klamath River, which have blocked salmon and steelhead from reaching more than 300 miles of historic habitat for nearly 100 years, and cause toxic algae blooms that harm water quality all the way to the Pacific Ocean, more than 190 miles away.
This project will be the most significant dam removal and river restoration effort in the world – 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 $295 million) and public works.
More than 40 stakeholders – including tribes, irrigators, commercial fishing interests and conservationists – helped craft the original Klamath agreements to remove the dams, restore habitat and resolve decades-long water management disputes. Funding for the project is coming from $200 million collected from PacifiCorp customers in Oregon and California and up to $250 million (if needed) from California through Proposition 1 (Water Bond) passed by voters in 2014.
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 21st century safety and environmental standards, would save PacifiCorp customers more than $100 million. In addition, PacifiCorp has installed more than 10 times the generation capacity of these dams in renewable wind and solar facilities over the past decade.
In 2010, we forged historic agreements among more than 40 Klamath basin stakeholders to remove the dams, restore habitat and resolve decades-long water management disputes. These settlements required Congress to approve the agreements by December 31st, 2015. Congress failed, and the agreements expired.
The new agreements retain the original target to remove the dams by 2020, but the path no longer goes through Congress. Instead, PacifiCorp will seek approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to transfer ownership of the four dams to a new non-profit called the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, which will apply to FERC to surrender and remove the dams in 2020, as originally planned. The KRRC will be governed by a board of directors made up of representatives chosen by American Rivers and our conservation partners, as well as directors chosen by the federal, state and tribal governments and representatives of the agricultural community.
Today we are celebrating this major step toward renewing the Klamath River and the fish and water quality that tribes, commercial fisherman and communities along the river depend on, but tomorrow we will get back to work on the many things left to do to succeed by 2020. This includes working with our tribal and agricultural partners in the upper basin to achieve the water rights, restoration and power related provisions we jointly committed to in 2010 but were put in jeopardy by Congress’s failure at the end of 2015. American Rivers is committed to bringing the benefits of such home grown, collaborative solutions to all the communities that depend on a healthy Klamath River.