Klamath River Renewal Corporation, PacifiCorp move Dam Removal Process Forward
Published September 24, 2016
WASHINGTON — On Friday, PacifiCorp and the newly formed non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), filed motions with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that seek to transfer the lower four Klamath dams to the KRRC for the purpose of decommissioning and removal.
FERC is the congressionally authorized agency that licenses and oversees power plans and hydroelectric dams.
“Today we reached yet another milestone along the path to restoring the Klamath River,” said Karuk Councilman Joshua Saxon. “This is great news and there’s no time to waste. We are suffering from one of the worst salmon runs in history this year.”
“The deplorable water quality, back-to-back disease outbreaks and bottomed-out fish runs have taken a tremendous toll on our people. We welcome this major step toward restoring Klamath fish populations and providing salmon once again to our upstream neighbors, the Klamath Tribes,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe.
The progress towards the largest dam removal in US history comes after years of deadlock for Klamath parties. Originally, dam owner PacifiCorp, Tribes, conservation groups, and irrigation districts negotiated a larger settlement agreement that would not only remove dams but balance water use between the Klamath River, Upper Klamath Lake, wildlife refuges, and the Klamath Irrigation Project. This agreement would have invested millions in habitat restoration and irrigation efficiency. Despite broad bi-partisan support at the grass roots level, Representatives Walden and LaMalfa tanked the deal.
Now dam removal is proceeding anyway under the jurisdiction of FERC.
“It’s a shame that congress would not move the larger Klamath legislative package. Dam removal is a huge leap forward, but we still need to resolve water disputes between river communities and farm communities,” adds Saxon.
Although FERC is still a long way from approving dam removal plans, dam removal advocates are optimistic that it process will indeed lead to dam removal. KRRC Board Member Wendy George notes, “much of the environmental analysis has already been completed. The Final Environmental Impact Statement released by the Department of Interior in March of 2013 concluded that dam removal is safe, cost-effective, and will lead to improved fisheries and water quality. That analysis went on to recommend full removal of PacifiCorp’s lower four Klamath dams.”