As work begins on the largest US dam removal
project, tribes look to a future of growth
by Adam Beam, AP News July 31,
by COMMENTS BY REX COZZALIO, a 4th generation Hornbrook
"The past more than a decade of empirical studies completely
REFUTE the 'rewilding' proponent's prior claimed
'benefits' of Klamath Reservoirs' destruction.
The recent Elwha Study of dams destruction
results CONFIRM it being an absolute
environmental disaster, with multiple extirpated
species, PERMANENT damages to the river and
habitat, and total FAILURE of previously
'predicted benefits' asserted by many of the
same unaccountable signatories of Klamath
destruction. That report's 'recommendation' of
'revising' future removal rhetoric used to sell
planned destructions (including the Klamath) is
why the rhetoric has 'suddenly' changed from the
prior claims that destruction equals
improvement, thereby taking away ALL the
previous promises and assurances made to
regional agriculture that destroying the
reservoirs will result in INCREASED water and
LESS oppression. We who live at the 'focal
point' of impacts always knew, and they now
know, that is a complete lie, and they have
ALREADY documented their responses to expected
failure and their continued intent to profit
through further INCREASED future implementation
of oppression upon the region, including
confiscating without compensation what little
winter stored water is left that hasn't already
been taken from the irrigators who paid for and
owned it. Quite a contradiction they have woven
when their plan to 'save' the river from their
now certain 'rewilding' failure is to confiscate
ALL 'unnaturally' stored winter water for
INCREASED 'unnatural' summertime environmental
wasting that to date has resulted in ZERO
statistical benefit to the fisheries.
Even their claims for 'restoration' are an insult of public
manipulation and special interest profit.
EVERYONE who has lived in the most affected
region and actually READ their 'plan' KNOWS the
jokes they are presenting. Millions in special
interest pockets to 'restore' the area will
accomplish NOTHING in the arid region of clay
soils dominated by invasive and noxious weeds.
Constructed for 'touchy feely' public
consumption, only a FRACTION of the seeds used
to plant are actually 'gathered by (heavily paid
destruction Signatory) Tribes', with MOST seed
commercially originating out of area and MANY
species including noxious and non-native plants
which residents in the region already
continually struggle to control. KNOWING the
vast majority of seeds will never survive, their
'most extensive restoration Project in U.S.
history' is largely to try planting seeds a
maximum of TWICE, and then sitting back while
paid to 'monitor' what happens, JUST as they are
being paid with public funds for a 'private
project' to simply 'monitor' the major known
detrimental environmental impacts to the River.
Sadly, the 'story' and 'history' being promoted
to the public are already such a far cry from
the lies and deception we at the 'focal point'
have already experienced, that there is little
doubt the 'Signatories' future storyline will
bear virtually NO resemblance to the actual
suffering our beloved region will endure."
work begins on the largest US dam removal project, tribes look
to a future of growth
by Adam Beam, AP News July
The Iron Gate Dam powerhouse and
spillway are seen on the lower Klamath River near Hornbrook,
Calif, on March 2, 2020. This dam, along with three others on
the Klamath River, are scheduled to be removed by the end of
2024. Crews will work to restore the river and surrounding land.
(Photo Fillian Flaccus)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The largest
dam removal project in United States history is
underway along the California-Oregon border — a process that
won’t conclude until the end of next year with the help of
heavy machinery and explosives.
But in some ways, removing the dams is the easy part. The
hard part will come over the next decade as workers,
partnering with Native American tribes, plant and monitor
nearly 17 billion seeds as they try to restore the Klamath
River and the surrounding land to what it looked like before
the dams started to go up more than a century ago.
The demolition is part of a national movement to return the
natural flow of the nation’s rivers and restore habitat for
fish and the ecosystems that sustain other wildlife. More
than 2,000 dams have been removed in the U.S. as of
February, with the bulk of those having come down within the
last 25 years, according to the advocacy group American
When demolition is completed by the end of next year, more
than 400 miles (644 kilometers) of river will have opened
for threatened species of fish and other wildlife. By
comparison, the 65 dams removed in the U.S. last year
combined to reconnect 430 miles (692 kilometers) of river.
Along the Klamath, the dam removals
won’t be a major hit to the power supply; they produced less
than 2% of power company PacifiCorp’s energy generation when
they were running at full capacity -- enough to power about
70,000 homes. Though the hydroelectric power produced by dams is
considered a clean, renewable source of energy, many larger dams
in the U.S. West have become a target for environmental groups
and tribes because of the harm they cause to fish and river
The project will empty three
reservoirs over about 3.5 square miles (9 square kilometers)
near the California-Oregon border, exposing soil to sunlight in
some places for the first time in more than a century.
For the past five years, Native
American tribes have gathered seeds by hand and sent them to
nurseries with plans to sow the seeds along the banks of the
newly wild river. Helicopters will bring in hundreds of
thousands of trees and shrubs to plant along the banks,
including wads of tree roots to create habitat for fish.
This growth usually takes decades
to happen naturally. But officials are pressing nature’s
fast-forward button because they hope to repel an invasion of
foreign plants, such as starthistle,
which dominate the landscape at the expense of native plants.
“Why not just let nature take its
course? Well, nature didn’t take its course when dams got put
in. We can’t pretend this gigantic change in the landscape has
not happened and we can’t just ignore the fact that invasive
species are a big problem in the west and in California,” said
Dave Meurer, director of community affairs for Resource
Environmental Solutions, the company leading the restoration
PacifiCorp built the dams starting
in 1918 to generate electricity. The dams halted the natural
flow of the river and disrupted the lifecycle of salmon, a fish
that spends most of its life in the Pacific Ocean but returns to
the chilly mountain streams to lay eggs. The fish are culturally
and spiritually significant to a number of Native American
tribes, who historically survived by fishing the massive runs of
salmon that would come back to the rivers each year.
A combination of low water levels
and warm temperatures in 2002 led to a bacterial outbreak that
killed more than 34,000 fish, mostly Chinook salmon. The loss
jumpstarted decades of advocacy from Native American tribes and
environmental groups, culminating last year when federal
regulators approved a plan to remove the dams.
“The river is our church, the
salmon is our cross. That’s how it relates to the people. So
it’s very sacred to us,” said Kenneth Brink, vice chairman of
the Karuk Tribe. “The river is not just a place we go to swim.
It’s life. It creates everything for our people.”
The project will cost $500 million,
paid for by taxpayers and PacifiCorps ratepayers. Crews have
mostly removed the smallest of the four dams, known as Copco No.
2. The other three dams are expected to come down next year.
That will leave some homeowners in the area without the
picturesque lake they have lived on for years.
The Siskiyou County Water Users
Association, which formed about a decade ago to stop the dam
removal project, filed a federal lawsuit. But so far they have
been unable to stop the demolition.
“Unfortunately it’s a mistake you
can’t turn back from,” association President Richard Marshall
The water level in the lakes will
drop between 3 feet and 5 feet (1 meter to 1.5 meters) per day
over the first few months of next year. Crews will follow that
water line, taking advantage of the moisture in the soil to
plant seeds from more than 98 native plant species including
wooly sunflower, Idaho fescue and Blue bunch wheat grass.
Tribes have been invested in the
process from the start. Resource Environmental Solutions hired
tribal members to gather seeds from native plants by hand. The
Yurok Tribe even hired a restoration botanist.
Each species has a role to play.
Some, like lupine, grow quickly and prepare the soil for other
plants. Others, like oak trees, take years to fully mature and
provide shade for other plants.
“It’s a wonderful marriage of
tribal traditional ecological knowledge and western science,”
said Mark Bransom, CEO of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation,
the nonprofit entity created to oversee the project.
The previous largest dam removal
project was on Washington state’s Elwha River, which flows out
of Olympic National Park into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Congress in 1992 approved the demolition of the two dams on the
river constructed in the early 1900s. After two decades of
planning, workers finished removing them in 2014, opening about
70 miles (113 kilometers) of habitat for salmon and steelhead.
Biologists say it will take at
least a generation for the river to recover, but within months
of the dams being removed, salmon were already recolonizing
sections of the river they had not accessed in more than a
century. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which has been closely
involved in restoration work, is opening a limited subsistence
fishery this fall for coho salmon, its first since the dams came
Brink, the Karuk Tribe vice chair,
hopes similar success will happen on the Klamath River. Multiple
times per year, Brink and other tribal members participate in
ceremonial salmon fishing using handheld nets. In many years,
there have been no fish to catch, he said.
“When the river gets to flow freely
again, the people can also begin to worship freely again,” he
Associated Press writer Eugene Johnson in Seattle contributed.
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