(Washington) The Klamath River is back on a path to restoration, thanks to agreements signed today by the governors of California and Oregon, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, dam owner PacifiCorp, tribes, conservation groups and agricultural interests. The newly amended Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement (KHSA) will, upon approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, transfer ownership of PacifiCorp’s four dams to a new entity, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, with the goal of removing the dams beginning in 2020. Dam removal will improve water quality and open access to more than 300 miles of habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead.
“The future of the Klamath River and its communities looks brighter than ever,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “This river restoration effort has been decades in the making, thanks to the dedication of many partners. We still have a lot of work to do, but today we celebrate a major milestone on the way to this river’s recovery.”
More than 40 stakeholders including tribes, irrigators, conservationists and commercial fishing interests worked for years to finalize agreements in 2010 (the KHSA and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA)) to remove the dams and improve water management in the basin. But legislation authorizing the agreements stalled in Congress last year. The amended KHSA will achieve the purposes of the first agreement in a way that does not require Congressional approval, and the new Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement also being signed today reaffirms our commitment to work with agricultural interests and other parties to achieve the water management, restoration and power objectives of the KBRA.
PacifiCorp’s four dams, built between 1908 and 1962, cut off hundreds of miles of salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the Upper Klamath, 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 dams produce a nominal amount of power, which can be replaced using renewables and efficiency measures and without contributing to climate change. A study by the California Energy Commission and the Department of the Interior found that removing the dams and compensating for the loss of power production with efficiency measures and other sources would save PacifiCorp customers up to $285 million over 30 years.
“The Klamath story shows that by working together, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and find solutions that work for fish, farms, and families,” said Irvin.