Report targets dams
Published Oct 26, 2003
By DYLAN DARLING
The National Research Council's final report last
week put a spotlight on dams throughout the Klamath
The 12-member committee of scientists recommended:
n Removal of Chiloquin Dam on the Sprague River.
n Removal or improvements for better fish passage at
small dams and diversions throughout the Klamath
n Evaluations of Iron Gate Dam on the river itself
and of Dwinnell Dam on the Shasta River.
It also recommended a three-year shutdown of the
Iron Gate Hatchery, which produces mostly chinook
salmon, to see how native cohos would benefit if
they didn't have to compete against so many chinook.
William Lewis chaired the committee and is professor
of lake science at the University of Colorado in
Boulder. He said Chiloquin Dam blocks about 90
percent of the original spawning areas used by
suckers in Upper Klamath Lake.
"While some of this historical spawning area may be
degraded, removal of the dam will give the fish easy
access to it for the first time in decades, and
therefore could increase the number of larvae that
ultimately reach Upper Klamath Lake," he said in an
Downstream, he said, coho could benefit from the
removal of Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River just
past the Oregon-California Border and of Dwinnell
Dam on the Shasta River.
He said Iron Gate Dam blocks coho habitat to some
significant tributaries that now empty into Iron
Gate Reservoir, and Dwinnell Dam blocks about 20
percent of the coho habitat on the Shasta.
"We cannot forecast the exact effect of removal of
dams on the coho," he said. "We do think the overall
effect could be substantial, however."
So far, news of the Council's recommendation is
still trickling down to those who could be affected.
Kim Rushton, manager of the Iron Gate fish hatchery,
said he heard and read about the recommendation of
closing the hatchery, but he hadn't seen the
Council's report yet.
"We basically just heard of this," he said.
He said the hatchery produces six million chinook
salmon a year, about five million of which are
released as fry in the spring, the rest released as
yearlings in the fall.
The hatchery also puts out 75,000 coho yearlings and
200,000 steelhead trout yearlings, both in the
"The reason we are here is to mitigate for the lost
spawning area above Iron Gate Dam," he said.
He said the hatchery workers try to time the release
of the hatchery fishes so they will have the least
impact on wild runs.
To meet the production goals, the hatchery needs
about 8,000 chinook to come back each year, Rushton
Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations said that although the
group has also called for a study of the viability
of Iron Gate Dam, it doesn't want the hatchery to be
"I don't think it is practical to close the hatchery
for three years," he said, "but there does need to
be some study of how the hatchery fish affect the
He said 40 to 50 percent of the chinook on the
Klamath River come from the hatchery. These fish are
an important part of the catch for commercial
fishermen up and down the Northern California and
The group has asked PacifiCorp, which owns the dam,
to consider removing the dam because it creates a
warm-water reservoir and blocks native habitat.
PacifiCorp is currently working on an application
for the relicensing of its Klamath Hydroelectrical
Project with the Federal Regulatory Energy
Commission. The 151-megawatt project is made up of
seven power dams and one flow-control dam. The
license will expire in 2006, but the application for
a new one is due March 1.
Jon Coney, spokesman for PacifiCorp, said the
company has done an early evaluation of the report
and plans to go over it with a "fine tooth comb."
He said the company doesn't plan on removing, or
"decommissioning," any dams, and the report doesn't
"Our relicensing has been pretty straightforward -
that decommissioning is not something we are looking
at," he said.
On the Sprague River, the Chiloquin Dam has been
under discussion by a number of groups, including
the Klamath Water Users Association, the Klamath
Tribes and the Modoc Point Irrigation District. In
the last year, representatives of those groups,
along with representatives from the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, state and federal agencies and others,
have met as part of a working group.
In July, the working group unanimously recommended
the removal of the dam, with some considerations.
One of the concerns was what would happen to Modoc
Point district irrigators who use water from the dam
to water about 5,000 acres.
Tom Burns uses district water to fill his bass
aquaculture ponds. He said the group's
recommendation calls on the U.S. Congress to figure
out a way compensate the district's water users for
switching to a downstream pump that would cost about
$50,000 a year to run.
The district water users also don't want to lose the
spot in line in the ongoing water rights
adjudication for the Basin.
"We have to be assured that our water rights for
quantity and time are the same they are now," Burns
He said the other groups have put in other requests
in the recommendation, such as the Tribes, which
asked for a commitment to overall restoration of the
Sprague River system.
Another concern for the group was how removing the
dam would affect spawning habitat downstream because
of the rush of sediment now blocked behind the dam.
Chuck Korson, fish passage manager for the Klamath
Reclamation Project, said the Bureau found that the
release of the sediment wouldn't harm the habitat.
"Within six months to a year it would be flushed
out," he said.
For best results, he said, the dam would be removed
in the fall. The low water would help in doing the
work in the river and the following winter floods
would help disperse the sediments, Korson said.
Now that the Bureau's study is in, the working
group's recommendation is in and the Council has
called for the removal of the dam in its report, the
project needs only a legislative thumbs-up.
"It's a matter of going through congressional
process," he said.
U.S. Rep Greg Walden set up the legislation that led
to the working group and has said he will work to
get an appropriation for removing the dam.
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section
107, any copyrighted
material herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit
research and educational purposes only. For more
information go to: