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KRRC liaison breaks down dam removal - KRRC community liaison to strengthen ties - Additional information

  • , Herald and News, 1/18/18

Removal of four dams along the Klamath River — J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and 2, and Iron Gate Dam — by non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), will need to be paired with a long-term agreement in order to solve long-term water quality issues for the Klamath River.

That is, both during and after dam removal, according to Dave Meurer, newly appointed community liaison for KRRC for Klamath, Siskiyou and Humboldt counties.

Dam removal is slated to start as early as 2020, pending approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), according to Meurer, and he confirmed it’s likely that fish could die as sediment flows downstream.


Meurer is confident that the dams will be removed, looking at past backing by the states of Oregon and California, and PacifiCorp, the owner of the hydroelectric dams, as well as the Departments of Interior and Commerce.

“If I did not believe this was happening and that dam removal was a certainty, I would not have recently quit my job and joined this organization,” Meurer said. “I am highly convinced that this is moving forward.”

FERC still needs to sign off on the project, Meurer said.

KRRC has hired Los Angeles-based AECOM, which Meurer called a “gargantuan” firm known world-wide for dam removal.

“The short-term, it’s going to hammer the river pretty hard,” Meurer said. “There’s going to be a lot of sediment moving through the system that is not friendly to fish. But all the fishery’s biologists and agencies that weighed in on this said this would be a short-term hit for a very long-term gain.

“There would be an unavoidable impact,” Meurer added. “But they’re going to try to do this sediment release during the time that is going to be least damaging to the fishery. So we are going to be aiming for that very specific window precisely to minimize, avoid as much as possible, impacts to key species of fish.”

If fish are not prospering, then everybody pays a price, Meurer said.

“I still see the Basin farmers being in a highly vulnerable position from a regulatory and legal point of view because of fish Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues, water quality issues. So this attempt by KRRC to restore the river, restore the fishery is also an attempt to bring long-term stability and prosperity to the region, and that includes the ag economy.

“We’ve been lurching from ESA crisis to ESA crisis for too long and I understand there are concerns people have about is the water too impaired.”

Anticipated water quality issues for the Klamath River are what make this project trickier than other dam removal projects, according to Meurer.

“In this case, we have some really difficult water quality problems,” Meurer said. “There are already enormous efforts underway to improve water quality and there are a lot of restoration efforts.

“Dam removal; it will take care of the blue green algae issue,” he emphasized. “It will make a difference in C. Shasta disease. The dam removal piece doesn’t complete the water quality requirements that are going to be needed to get the Klamath from being a sick patient back into being healthy.”

Meurer said KRRC officials are aware that dam removal in and of itself is not a complete solution but a necessary step in process to address concerns, both short and longterm.

“(KRRC) … they’re fully cognizant that they’re has to be a phase II or else this would really not be successful,” Meurer said.

“Dam removal in and of itself does not really resolve some really key water quality issues. There will have to be some other agreement going forward,” Meurer added. “There will have to be something, probably at the congressional level that will require appropriations.”

He said KRRC echoes the belief that more beyond dam removal is needed as a long-term solution.

“Although this is a very large and ambitious program, it is not unprecedented to perform a dam removal and then see a positive response from the fishery,” Meurer said.


Meurer detailed that dam removal, for which there hasn’t been a determined start date, will be a slow and carefully controlled draining process that would likely take place in the months of January and February. Meurer said he couldn’t specify a year but said, following the “draw down” of water from the dam.

An estimated 15-20 million cubic yards of “very fine” sediment could wash down the river and into the Pacific Ocean, according to Meurer.

“There’s a lot of sediment built up behind the dams and when they start start drawing down the dams, that sediment is going to be transported downstream,” Meurer said.

Meurer said that left-over sediment would make up the riverbank, which would return to a naturally vegetative state.

Meurer said KRRC believes any concerns about the contents of the sediment are diminished by a letter the non-profit received from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The trajectory we’re on right now is not good,” Meurer said, in comparison. We are very close to extinction frankly on Spring Chinook and numbers are down on the fall run 10 percent of historic numbers. The trajectory has to change, and that is the goal of this project.

Benefits of dam removal will make an impact as well, according to Meurer.

“You’re going to get rid of that ongoing seasonal toxic algae bloom that happens behind some reservoirs,” Meurer said. “That’s a chronic issue. That water becomes dangerous, not just for fish, but for people, and you don’t want to let your dog jump in the river either.”

Admittedly not a biologist or fisheries expert, Meurer said ample research backs the need for dam removal.

“An enormous amount of work has gone into researching this before proceeding and there is a pretty deep scientific consensus that you can make a lot of difference with this project,” Meurer said. “And it begins with the work that KRRC is performing.”

KRRC community liaison to strengthen ties

Dave Meurer, recently named as community liaison for non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), recalled Wednesday what it was like to watch the water shutoffs of 2001 unfold in the Klamath Basin.

At the time, Meurer was serving as legislative staff for California Congressman Wally Herger, a position he held for more than 20 years. Meurer will now serve as a point person for communities in Klamath, Siskiyou, and Humboldt counties on the more than $450 million removal of four Klamath River dams.

“I saw first-hand, I was up there meeting with constituents, attending hearings, attending rallies and just saw the incredible amount of devastation that brought to that regional economy,” Meurer said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“That was a crushing blow and there was a mad scramble to get the water turned back on,” Meurer added.

Meurer continued to follow water conflicts in the Basin following the shutoffs. He recently left a longtime position to serve as the KRRC's community liaison to ensure the community is made aware of all that's involved in the process to remove the dams.

“I will be traveling extensively throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California,” Meurer said. “If I can play some kind of constructive role here, I would like to do so.”

Meurer comes to the position having spent years as a legislative and senatorial staffer for both U.S. Rep. Herger and Sen. Ted Gaines,R-El Dorado Hills. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University in political science and communication studies.

With roots in Corning, Chico and Red Bluff, Calif., Meurer currently calls Redding home, and may eventually work remotely in the Basin, though nothing has been finalized.

He's logging miles this week between tribal consultation meetings with FERC, which is holding a public meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday in Chiloquin, with intervenors, including the Klamath Tribes.

Although Meurer's schedule doesn't allow him to be present at the meeting Thursday, Meurer said two KRRC board members will be on-hand at the meeting, including former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat.

While much of Meurer's work has been in California, Meurer said he's familiar with Klamath Water User's Association and worked with Scott White, current executive director, and former executive director Greg Addington.

“I want to strengthen those ties and I want to get more deeply involved with Klamath County,” he said.

“I'm going to try to make myself available, either regularly attending meetings of the (Siskiyou) Board of Supervisors, (Klamath County) board of commissioners up in Oregon, various invitations to various stakeholder groups, but also just community folks who are interested in what's going on. I'll be interacting with the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) and the chambers of commerce. There are a lot of interested parties and I am going to try to be making the rounds on a very regular basis.”

~Holly Dillemuth

Impacts of dam removal on native fish

From Klamath River Renewal Corporation

"What are the negative impacts of this project to native fish? Dam removal and the release of sediments will kill all the fish."

■ The impacts from dam removal on lower river salmonids (particularly sediment impacts) would be short-term, and would last 1-2 years, with populations recovered from those sediment impacts by 5 years.

■ Reservoir species are not expected to survive in the colder river waters post dam removal.

Additional information

■ Dam removal and the release of sediments would unavoidably impact fish, particularly in the first year. To mitigate the concern, the Detailed Plan for dam removal would draw down the three reservoirs in January and February of 2020 when salmon are most sparse in the main-stem Klamath River and are primarily present downstream, in tributaries and the ocean.

■The studies project the following impacts in the first year after dam removal under low-flow or worst-case conditions:

■ An 8 percent basin-wide mortality of fall-run Chinook salmon adults,

■ Negligible impacts on spring-run adult and juvenile Chinook salmon,

■ An 8 percent basin-wide mortality for juvenile coho salmon and less than 1 percent for adult coho salmon,

■ Basin-wide mortality for adult and juvenile steelhead of about 28 percent and 19 percent, respectively, under worst-case, low-flow conditions. Mortality for steelhead would be about 14 percent for both adults and juveniles under more normal flow conditions.

■ The studies further project that salmon and steelhead populations would recover to pre-dam removal levels in 1-2 years and increase in subsequent years. Fall Chinook productions would increase about 80 percent following dam removal. Harvest of these fish would increase about 47 percent in the ocean, 55 percent for tribes, and 9 percent for in-river sport fisheries.

"There are tons of sediments behind the dams and they are toxic. What will happen when these sediments are released?"

Accumulated sediment within the reservoir has been tested and no contaminants have been detected in violation of human health or drinking water standards. Of the approximately 15 million cubic yards of sediment behind the four dams, between 5 and 9 million cubic yards will erode downstream soon after dam removal and the remainder will remain behind, effectively becoming soil that would be replanted with native vegetation.

"Sediment delivery post dam removal will have negative impacts. How much sediment is behind the dams and how will it move downstream?"

There will be approximately 15 million cubic yards behind the dams by 2020. About 5 to 9 million cubic yards of sediment (36 percent to 57 percent of the total, depending on flow conditions during dam removal) will travel downstream soon after dam removal and the remainder will become soil that will be replanted with native vegetation.

Of the sediments that travel downstream, about 85 percent will be silt and clay that will be suspended in winter and spring flows and carried down to the Pacific Ocean within months after dam removal. The other 15 percent will be sand and gravel that will be transported through the river system over years or decades depending on flow conditions. Modeling estimates about 18 inches of coarser sediment will be deposited along a five-mile reach downstream of Iron Gate dam soon after dam removal. Deposits will be progressively thinner further downstream, becoming less than three inches thick about 10 miles downstream of Iron Gate dam.

KRRC is undertaking further engineering and hydraulic studies to assure a comprehensive understanding of sediment transport, subject to public comment and then review by FERC and other regulators.

The States and FERC will evaluate impacts from this sediment and determine mitigation.



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