Dam demolition revived, Drawdown of water could start in 2020
path to Klamath dam removal is emerging.
press release issued Tuesday by the Department of Interior,
announced stakeholder parties to the Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement (KHSA) are looking for a way to amend
the nearly defunct agreement and demolish four dams on the
According to the release, PacifiCorp, the Departments of
Interior and Commerce, and the states of Oregon and
California have created an agreement in principle that
outlines provisions for altering the hydroelectric
say the agreement doesn’t require any support or funding
from Congress, which has stifled efforts to remove the dams
as part of a comprehensive water settlement package for the
coming weeks, the parties will work with the KHSA’s more
than 40 signatories to develop terms of the amendments,
which will call for implementing the pact and removing the
J.C. Boyle, Copco 1 and Copco 2 and Iron Gate dams from the
want to see the dams taken out and we would support any
process that does that as quickly as possible,” said Klamath
Tribes Chairman Don Gentry. “Dam removal as a step to
restoring salmon and steelhead to the upper Klamath Basin
has long been a goal of the Klamath Tribes.”
target date for signing an amended KHSA is Feb. 29, the
agreement marks an unprecedented coming together of parties
to seek solutions to difficult problems,” said John Laird,
California secretary for natural resources. “California is
committed to the implementation of the KHSA and to continued
efforts to achieve a broad settlement of the issues that
have plagued the Klamath Basin.”
deconstruction plan issued by the Bureau of Reclamation in
2012 said in an effort to minimize impacts on threatened
coho salmon and other fish, the agency recommended drawing
down the river’s three larger reservoirs in the winter of
2020. The time ensures the majority of reservoir sediments
will be transported downstream from January to March 15,
when coho and several other native species are not present
in the river in large numbers.
dams would be deconstructed following the drawdown, the plan
Funding for removal identified
dams are owned by PacifiCorp and run as part of the
corporation’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project. The project
starts in Klamath County and runs through Siskiyou County.
It produces less than 2 percent of PacifiCorp’s total power
According to the release, the agreement in principle will
allow KHSA parties to pursue new avenues for implementing
the agreement, such as using administrative processes
governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
PacifiCorp’s FERC license for the Klamath Hydroelectric
Project expired in 2006. New environmental regulations
require that the dams — constructed between 1922 and 1962 —
are retrofitted to provide fish passage for salmon,
steelhead and other fish before they can be relicensed.
PacifiCorp Spokesman Bob Gravely said money for dam removal
has already been identified. A study by the Department of
Interior estimated costs for removing the dams at about $290
million. The KHSA has provisions for covering costs up to
According to Gravely, the first $200 million will be funded
by Pacific Power customers. He said about $100 million in
surcharges to fund the project has already been collected
and placed in a trust.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has committed $250 million of
the state’s budget for Klamath River restoration.
Tucker, a spokesman for the Karuk Tribe, said the money
available now might disappear or be re-appropriated to other
projects if it’s not used for action on the Klamath.
statement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell nodded to the
years-long effort water stakeholders put in to reach a
comprehensive set of solutions.
can’t let that local vision go unfulfilled,” she said. “This
agreement in principle is an important initial step as we
work toward a comprehensive set of actions to advance the
long-term progress and sustainability for tribes, fisheries
and water users across the Klamath Basin.”
with a vested interest in water management in the Klamath
Basin spent nearly a decade hammering out the Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydroelectric
Settlement Agreement. Both agreements were signed in 2010.
KBRA outlined conditions for equitable water sharing between
farmers and tribes, and the KHSA has provisions outlining
how four Klamath River dams will be decommissioned and
removed from the river. Also in the KHSA is a provision that
could transfer ownership of two upper Basin Klamath
Hydroelectric Project dams to the Bureau of Reclamation.
2014, the two bills were joined by the Upper Klamath Basin
Comprehensive Agreement, and wrapped into the Klamath Water
Recovery and Economic Restoration Act. The act spent two
consecutive years stalled in the U.S. Senate Committee on
Energy and Natural Resources. The KBRA finally expired on
worry since the beginning is that we would lose the dams and
we’re still in this water war,” said Basin farmer Tracey
Gravely said his hope is that divorcing dam removal — which
has been said by many to be a non-starter in Congress — from
the KBRA, may help the comprehensive water management and
restoration package gain more support from lawmakers.
think everyone is hoping this is a way to jumpstart the
broader agreement,” Gravely said. “If we’re able to do the
dam removal — and do it on a different tract — the hope is
there will be desire to move forward with the other pieces.”
White, the executive director of the Klamath Water Users
Association, said the association “has not and will never
support dam removal as a stand-alone agreement.”
abandoning the original collaborative concept of the Klamath
Settlement Agreements, this agreement in principle creates a
further divisive environment in the Klamath watershed.
the relationships and mutual understandings built over the
last decade, we expect that the other parties will recognize
that this (agreement) alone is not the best solution for the
added that Water Users is working with Oregon Sens. Jeff
Merkley and Ron Wyden, and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, to create
what Water Users considers a more complete approach to water
solutions than the agreement in principle provides.
Knight, executive director of California Trout, a nonprofit
fish and watershed advocacy group, said he is encouraged by
the renewed commitment to remove the Klamath dams and the
possibility of restoring salmon to more than 300 miles of
spawning habitat in the Klamath watershed.
removal is an essential first step, but certainly not the
only step, in this process. California Trout remains
committed to the comprehensive vision behind the hard-won
Klamath agreements, which identified a balanced approach to
water use, environmental restoration and community
sustainability throughout the Basin,” Knight said.
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