Note: If 1 MW supplies750 homes, 27 MW supplies 20,250 homes
with power. And this is "the smallest of the four dams.")
in 1925, Copco 2 measured 35 feet tall and 278 feet long. It
diverted water released from Copco 1 into a series of tunnels
and penstocks ending at a rectangular powerhouse capable of
producing up to 27 megawatts of electricity.
Klamath River Renewal Corp.
KLAMATH, Calif. — The first of four
hydroelectric dams slated for removal on the Klamath River
is coming down.
Copco 2 is a diversion dam about a
quarter-mile downriver of the larger Copco 1, which impounds
Copco Lake east of Yreka in Northern California. The name
“Copco” is an acronym referring to the California Oregon
Power Company which merged with what is now PacifiCorp in
Completed in 1925, Copco 2 measured 35
feet tall and 278 feet long. It diverted water released from
Copco 1 into a series of tunnels and penstocks ending at a
rectangular powerhouse capable of producing up to 27
megawatts of electricity.
Power generation at Copco 2 stopped
June 1, and the dam is now rapidly being dismantled by heavy
machinery. Final removal is expected by September.
“It certainly is a momentous
occasion,” said Mark Bransom, executive director of the
Klamath River Renewal Corporation, or KRRC. “It is the
culmination of work that has been done over the last couple
of decades, most notably by tribal members and tribal
governments that have been advocating for this action since
the early 2000s.”
The Klamath Hydroelectric Project also
includes J.C. Boyle Dam, upstream from Copco 1 in Southern
Oregon near Keno, and Iron Gate Dam, downstream from Copco 2
near Hornbrook, Calif. The dams were built between 1911 and
1962, and collectively produced up to 169 megawatts of
By tearing down the dams and restoring
a free-flowing river, tribes and environmental groups claim
it will open 400 miles of previously blocked habitat for
Razing Copco 2 marks the first step in
that process, Bransom said.
In order for excavators to even reach
the dam, the construction team, led by Kiewit Corp., first
had to dewater the stretch of river between Copco 1 and
Copco 2. That was accomplished by altering reservoir levels
behind Copco 1 and Iron Gate dams.
From June 1-8, Bransom said they drew
down Copco Lake by 8 feet. The water was sent downriver past
Copco 2 into Iron Gate Reservoir, where it is now being
stored and gradually released to meet minimum streamflows
for salmon under the Endangered Species Act.
Additional storage capacity in Copco
Lake has allowed for the area behind Copco 2 to remain
mostly dry until the dam is fully removed.
“Of course, we have a little bit of
flow. But by and large, it’s just a tiny amount,” Bransom
The gates, walkway and two of five
bays down to the spillway have already been taken out at
Copco 2. Meanwhile, hydraulic drills continue to chip away
at the concrete weir, breaking it into smaller rubble pieces
Deconstruction of Copco 2
is underway on the Klamath River. Copco 2 is the first of four
hydroelectric dams slated for removal, which tribes and
environmental groups claim will open 400 miles of previously
blocked habitat for endangered salmon.
Klamath River Renewal Corp.
The wooden and steel penstocks that carried water to the
powerhouse will also be removed in sections, Bransom said.
He expects work will wrap up shortly after Labor Day.
With Copco 2 gone, Bransom said the
team will then set its sights on the remaining three dams in
restoration of the area,
including the re-vegetation of 2,200 acres with native
plants, will be ongoing in 2025 and beyond.
According to the KRRC, the entire
project involves demolishing 100,000 cubic yards of concrete
and 2,000 tons of steel. Total cost is estimated at $450
million, including $200 million from PacifiCorp ratepayers
and $250 million from a statewide water bond approved by
California voters in 2014.
California, Oregon and PacifiCorp have
pledged another $45 million in contingency funds, in case
the project goes over budget.
On June 26, members of the KRRC board
of directors gathered near Copco 2 for a glimpse of the
deconstruction. The board includes representatives from the
Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley tribes, which have long
advocated for removing the dams to restore historically
abundant salmon runs.
“It was very emotional for all of us,”
Bransom said, recounting the moment. “This is the first of a
number of steps that will be taken to try and restore some
balance to the Klamath River, and communities that rely on
the abundance of the river.”
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