Four Dams Slated to Be Removed From the Klamath River
In a victory for the Yurok Tribe and environmental groups, a key step in removing four dams along the Klamath River was signed yesterday. Multiple officials, including the governors of both California and Oregon, were at the historic event. The dams are now slated to come down by 2020.
“Dam removal is a key element of large-scale fish restoration efforts on the Klamath, and we believe it puts the people of the Klamath Basin back on a path toward lasting prosperity.” said Yurok Tribe Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke, Sr.
Press release from the US Department of the Interior:
The U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, PacificCorp, and the states of Oregon and California…signed an agreement that, following a process administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is expected to remove four dams on the Klamath River by 2020, amounting to one of the largest river restoration efforts in the nation.
State and federal officials also signed a new, separate agreement with irrigation interests and other parties known as the 2016 Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA). This agreement will help Klamath Basin irrigators avoid potentially adverse financial and regulatory impacts associated with the return of fish runs to the Upper Klamath Basin, which are anticipated after dams are removed.This new agreement acknowledges that additional work is necessary to fully restore the Klamath Basin, advance the recovery of its fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s farming and ranching economy. Many of these efforts will require Congressional action, and the agreement commits the signatories to actively cooperate with all Klamath Basin stakeholders – Members of Congress, tribes, farmers and others – to develop additional agreements over the next year to offer comprehensive solutions to these issues.The signing ceremony took place…at the mouth of the Klamath River on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath. California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, and President and CEO of Pacific Power Stefan Bird participated in the event, along with Congressman Jared Huffman, tribes, water users and non-governmental organizations from the Klamath Basin community. The newly amended dam removal agreement, which uses existing nonfederal funding and follows the same timeline as the original agreement, will be filed with FERC on or about July 1 for consideration under their established processes. Under the agreement, dam owner PacifiCorp will transfer its license to operate the Klamath River dams to a private company known as the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. This company will oversee the dam removal in 2020. PacifiCorp will continue to operate the dams until they are decommissioned.“[This] is a historic day where the parties who have worked for decades to restore the Klamath Basin are reaffirming their commitment to each other for the shared vision of fisheries restoration and irrigated agriculture co-existing as we move into the future,” said Secretary Jewell. “This agreement is an important initial step as we work toward a comprehensive set of actions to advance long term restoration and sustainability for tribes, fisheries, and agriculture and water users across the Klamath Basin.”
“These agreements will enable the largest dam removal project in the nation,” said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator. “While more work lies ahead, these agreements support efforts to recover fisheries, sustain the region’s farming and ranching interests, and benefit the environment and the communities who rely upon the Klamath River.”
“This historic agreement will enable Oregon and California and the interested parties to get these four dams finally removed and the Klamath River restored to its pristine beauty,” Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. said.
“These agreements are more than ink and paper, they are a roadmap to the future of the Klamath Basin and of the people who live there,” said Governor Kate Brown. “I’m proud to be a part of a plan that invokes the spirit of collaboration to ensure the recovery of the Klamath’s historic fishing grounds while sustaining the region’s farming and ranching heritage.”
“PacifiCorp continues to support the Klamath settlement as a fair way forward for our electricity customers in Oregon, California and beyond,” said Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power, a division of PacifiCorp. “The company is committed to continuing to work with our settlement partners to fully enact this important agreement.”
In 2010, Klamath Basin stakeholders signed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). In 2014, the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA) was signed. Members of the California and Oregon delegations introduced legislation in the past two Congresses to advance the hard-fought KHSA and two related Klamath agreements. However, the U.S. Congress adjourned last year without authorizing them. The expiration of the KBRA last December caused uncertainty in moving forward with the KHSA and UKBCA.
In early 2016, the parties, who have spent years negotiating the pacts, resolved to find a new path forward. The amended KHSA and the 2016 Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement are the result of those collaborative discussions.The four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River are operated for hydroelectric power generation. Modern environmental laws require that the dams need to be retrofitted to provide fish passage for salmon, steelhead and other fish. The Oregon and California public utility commissions found that the original KHSA was a prudent alternative for PacifiCorp’s customers.