Our Klamath Basin
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
River dam removal ecoterrorists' 'restoration' deception by4th
generation Hornbrook rancher Rex Cozzalio, 4/2/23, regarding
Capital Press article Going Natural: "Deceptive
as always. Implies this 'restoration' will go on for decades. If
so, it would have to come from somewhere else, as KRRC will
essentially do ONLY TWO attempts at planting, one each year
starting after draining the dams next year, which will likely
fail based on our terrain and climate, are 'restoring native
species' with a majority of plant seeds not known in the area,
and they will ONLY 'monitor' for up to 5 years after to see if
any. They will 'weedeat' some invasive weeds several times for
those 2 years, which for several of the ones targeted is one of
the best ways to ensure their survival, and they will 'irrigate'
the 100+ acres out of the 1000 for their considered 'critical'
areas with water TAKEN out of the Klamath river using an as yet
unidentified water right. Some of the WONDERFUL 'native' plants
they are going to plant include poison oak, foxtail, turkey
mullein, and numerous other noxious weeds I work out every year
to keep out of our property.
MOSES LAKE, Wash. — The largest dam
removal project in U.S. history is about more than just
tearing down four hydroelectric dams.
After years of careful planning, crews
are now laying the groundwork to raze J.C. Boyle, Copco 1,
Copco 2 and Iron Gate dams on the Klamath River in southern
Oregon and northern California, unlocking 400 miles of
upstream spawning habitat for anadromous salmon.
Once the reservoirs behind those dams
disappear, they will expose roughly 2,200 acres of
previously submerged land and built-up sediment that must be
replanted with native vegetation for birds and other
wildlife, and to stabilize the riverbank.
Without swift action, the land could
become a breeding ground for invasive weeds and vulnerable
to erosion, which will degrade water quality and kill the
very fish dam removal is intended to help.
It is a massive environmental
undertaking that involves producing enough wild grasses,
trees and shrubs to meet the need.
That is where farms like BFI Native
Seeds play a crucial role.
The company, headquartered in Moses
Lake, Wash., looks like any other commercial agricultural
enterprise in the heart of the Columbia Basin. But rather
than growing crops for food, it specializes in raising
native plants for restoring ecologically sensitive areas.
Matthew Benson, president of BFI, said
this year the farm will produce around 250 species of plants
for sites throughout the West — including the Klamath River,
“The amount of ground that’s going to
be restored is huge, and it’s going to have a huge effect on
the environment,” he said. “We’re glad to do our part to
make it the best it can be.”
Benson’s family has been farming in
this part of eastern Washington since the 1960s.
Originally, the farm grew vegetable
and alfalfa seed near Warden, Wash., about 17 miles
southeast of Moses Lake. Benson’s father, Jerry, also worked
as a botanist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife,
helping to recover native habitat.
Through trial and error, Jerry Benson
found that plants thrived when they came directly from the
local environment, where they have genetically adapted to
the region’s climate and soil, giving them better resilience
to insects and disease.
Collecting enough seeds by hand for
large-scale restoration, however, is a daunting task. Jerry
Benson figured he could instead take smaller amounts of
“source-identified” seeds gathered from the wild, and
propagate them to scale at his farm.
Thus BFI Native Seeds was born.
Incorporated in 1996, the company has provided more than 1.4
million pounds of seeds for customers over the last five
“They aren’t exactly agricultural
products,” Matthew Benson said. “They’re ecological products
that we use agriculture to get.”
In addition to growing and cleaning
seed, BFI has an entire division that works on projects from
beginning to end — from initial site evaluation and planting
to monitoring landscape health for decades.
“It is certainly a patient man’s
game,” Benson said. “One mistake can throw the whole thing
in the toilet. There’s a real need to get it right.”
For the last 20 years, BFI has worked
with the federal Bureau of Land Management to rehabilitate
approximately 100 acres along Duffy Creek near Wenatchee,
The property — a former dryland wheat
farm later used for grazing cattle — had become crowded with
crested wheatgrass, an invasive species. Site preparation
began in 2003 by mowing fields and spraying moderate doses
of glyphosate to kill off the invaders.
Benson said the fields were replanted
with “pretty much the full gamut” of native grasses and
wildflowers grown at BFI’s farm. A top priority was
bolstering habitat for vulnerable populations of greater
Changes were gradual at first, Benson
said. The fastest any project comes to fruition is typically
“It definitely takes a long time,” he
said. “You can spend a lot of years lost in the details, but
when you come back and can say, ‘Here is a functioning
habitat,’ that’s great.”
Benson said BFI got involved in the
Klamath River Renewal Project in 2018.
Another company, called Resource
Environmental Solutions, or RES, has been placed in charge
of environmental reclamation tied to dam removal. RES plans
to re-vegetate all 2,200 acres by planting an estimated 17
billion seeds from more than 100 species.
The Yurok Tribe, which has fought to
pull out the dams to save dwindling salmon runs, is leading
seed collection on the ground.
Seeds are then sent to one of five
farms for propagation, including BFI more than 500 miles
“Once these (dam) removals take place,
we have to have something to put back there that will
function,” Benson said. “And we want it to function
Species diversity is one of the key
markers for success, said Gwen Santos, western region
ecology director for RES.
Examples of upland native grasses
slated for re-vegetation include tufted hairgrass, blue wild
rye, bluebunch wheatgrass and bottlebrush squirreltail.
Santos said they are also growing tens of thousands of oak
trees, and willow cuttings designated for riparian areas.
Re-vegetation will help to stabilize
stream banks, provide habitat and keep invasive species,
such as cheatgrass and yellow star-thistle, from
“If we were to do nothing, it would
create and facilitate an unstable environment that would
just not be a productive area,” Santos said. “It would not
be very supportive of wildlife species and fish. It wouldn’t
be a very pleasant area to visit.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission unanimously approved decommissioning the four
Klamath River dams in November 2022.
Dam removal was first negotiated in
the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement in 2016,
though Congress failed to pass legislation implementing the
An amended agreement was signed later
that year, establishing the nonprofit Klamath River Renewal
Corp., or KRRC, which took over the dams’ operating licenses
from regional utility PacifiCorp. Built between 1911 and
1962, the dams had generated a combined 169 megawatts of
The KRRC secured $200 million from
PacifiCorp ratepayers, plus $250 million from a California
statewide water bond, to pay for dam removal. California,
Oregon and PacifiCorp have pledged an additional $45 million
in contingency funds, in case the project goes over budget.
Mark Bransom, KRRC executive director,
said preliminary work is taking place now as crews prepare
to draw down the reservoirs beginning in 2024.
This includes road and bridge
improvements, demolition of recreational sites such as
campgrounds and boat launches, and replacement of a city
water line for Yreka, Calif., 20 miles south of Iron Gate
“Everything is happening right on our
schedule,” Bransom said. “We are optimistic it will continue
Bransom said he is “very much looking
forward” to ecological restoration, which he described as
being just as important as dam removal.
“Everything is really starting to
click nicely,” he said.
Joshua Chenoweth, senior riparian
ecologist for the Yurok Tribe, said years of seed collection
spearheaded by tribal members are poised to pay dividends.
Since the dams were constructed,
federal statistics show the Klamath River’s once-abundant
chinook salmon runs have declined by more than 90%. The fish
are a sacred cultural resource for the Yurok, Karuk and
Hoopa Valley tribes, essential for food and ceremonies.
“Without salmon, they lose a part of
themselves,” said Chenoweth, who is not a tribal member but
has worked for the Yurok Tribe since 2019.
Seed collection typically begins each
year in May, when pods for lupine flowers begin to pop open.
The work continues through summer and late into the fall,
depending on the year.
“There’s not a whole lot of tricks,”
Chenoweth said. “You just try to get to the seed before it
ejects out of the pod.”
From a management perspective,
Chenoweth said there are many challenges. He knows this from
experience, having led the re-vegetation team after the
Elwha Dam in western Washington was removed in 2012.
Not everything is easy to collect, and
not everything is easy to propagate, Chenoweth said. Trying
to collect everything is nearly impossible, he said, but the
more diversity they can manage, the better set up for
success they will be.
“Species richness is really important
to ecosystems,” he said. “It provides a lot of resilience.”
Santos, with RES, said replanting will
begin as soon as reservoir drawdown starts next year.
“It has been a real privilege to be a
part of this project,” Santos said.
Heritage Growers, a 156-acre farm in
California’s Sacramento Valley, has also been involved
propagating native seed for the Klamath River.
The farm was established in 2021, and
is now entering its second growing season. It was
established as the farming arm of River Partners, a
nonprofit based in Chico, Calif., that focuses on
large-scale environmental restoration.
Pat Reynolds, general manager at
Heritage Growers, said the Klamath River job is just one
example of what he calls “an unprecedented time for habitat
“There are a lot of things that are
going on with the environment right now,” Reynolds said.
“We’re seeing significant losses of biodiversity on the
planet. Of course, climate change is having significant
impacts. It’s really important for us to be able to reverse
some of these trends, and mitigate those losses.”
Benson, of BFI Native Seeds, said they
face a delicate situation in the West.
He is not for de-populating the West,
he said, and is not inherently opposed to dams — in fact, it
is the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River that stores
irrigation water for their farm, allowing agriculture to
flourish in an area that receives just 9 inches of rain per
year on average.
However, Benson said land managers
must be good stewards of the land and its resources. That
includes healthy, functioning natural areas.
“We have resources, and we should
manage those resources well. That’s what we’re here to do,”
he said. “Can we make better decisions and do better jobs
where we’re working? I think we can.”
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