Key regulatory step toward restoration of free-flowing Klamath River
July 17, 2020
Contact: Amy Kober, 503-708-1145
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday approved the transfer of the license for the Klamath River dams from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) for the purpose of dam removal, conditioned on PacifiCorp remaining a co-licensee.
“FERC’s ruling is a critical milestone. Working with PacifiCorp, KRRC and our partners, we are confident we’ll stay on track to achieve this river restoration effort that is essential to people, salmon and clean water in the Klamath Basin,” said Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers.
A 2016 agreement held that the license would be transferred from PacifiCorp to KRRC. FERC’s requirement that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee still outlines a path forward to dam removal. Demolition of the four hydropower dams, J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron Gate, is anticipated to begin in 2021 and be completed in 2022.
The river’s Indigenous people, including the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath tribes, and local communities have advocated to remove the dams and restore the river and salmon runs for decades. The dams block habitat and have devastated salmon populations. The reservoirs behind the dams encourage growth of algae that is toxic to people, pets and wildlife. Removing the dams will restore salmon access to 300 miles of habitat, improve water quality and strengthen local communities that rely on salmon for their economy and culture.
“This river restoration effort has been decades in the making and we are closer than ever to our goal of a healthy, free-flowing river,” said Irvin. “We are grateful to Karuk, Yurok and Klamath tribes for their ongoing leadership and we thank elected leaders including Oregon Governor Kate Brown and California Governor Gavin Newsom who continue to support river restoration and solutions for salmon, clean water and communities,” Irvin said.
The dams provide no drinking water supply or irrigation. PacifiCorp agreed to dam removal in 2016 because the dams’ costs outweighed their benefits. Power from the dams will be replaced using renewables and efficiency measures, 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.
KRRC expects dam deconstruction and river restoration to create several hundred jobs in the Klamath Basin. Klamath salmon support commercial fisheries worth $150 million per year and the recreation industry contributes millions to the local Klamath Basin economy, according to KRRC.
Video: Lessons from the Klamath