18 December 9 , 2022 VOL . 41 • ISS . 19
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Votes To Approve Dam Removal On Klamath River !
ASHINGTON , D . C . —
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ( FERC ) on Nov . 17 unanimously approved the staff recommendation to surrender the license for the four lower PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River in California and Oregon and begin the dam removal process . The vote follows the August 27th release of the FERC staff ’ s final Environmental Impact Statement ( FEIS ) recommending the removal of the lower four Klamath River Dams . In its ruling , FERC commissioners found “ surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license and removal of the project to be in the public interest and grant the Klamath River Renewal Corporation ’ s surrender application , subject to terms and conditions and acceptance of the license transfer .” Dam removal on the Klamath will open up over 240 stream-miles of salmon and steelhead habitat that has been blocked to fish migration for over 100 years . The project , the largest of its kind in U . S . history , is funded by dam owner PacifiCorp and a voter-approved California bond measure . Klamath Basin Tribes , commercial and recreational fishermen and environmentalists , who worked on making dam removal a reality for over 20 years , applauded the vote today . “ The Klamath salmon are coming home ,” said Joseph L . James , the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe . “ The people have earned this victory and with it , we carry on our sacred duty to the fish that have sustained our people since the beginning of time .” “ Congratulations to all those who poured their blood , sweat and tears into making this happen ,” said Hoopa Valley Tribe Chairman Joe Davis . “ Water and fish health are at the heart of our identity as Native People and we are looking forward to seeing a healthier watershed and fishery which will result in healthier communities for all Klamath Basin tribes . Now we must keep the momentum going and we are looking forward to working with all of our neighbors and partners in that effort .” ” Today ’ s victory was well earned by the thousands of people who fought for clean water , healthy fisheries , and environmental justice for Klamath River communities ,” Karuk Chairman Russell “ Buster ” Attebery said in a statement . “ I am grateful to everyone , from the youth to the elders , Governors Newsom and Brown , and the team from PacifiCorp who made this victory possible .” In the Upper Klamath Basin above the dams , the Klamath Tribes of Oregon are looking forward to seeing salmon return after being absent for over a hundred years .
“ Our people have been without c ’ iyaals ( salmon ) for over a century . We welcome the fish home to the Upper Klamath Basin with open arms ,” said Klamath Tribes Chairman Clayton Dumont . Commercial and recreational salmon fishing families along the West Coast are also celebrating the FERC vote . “ Restoring the Klamath gives our struggling salmon fishing industry a chance to survive ,” said Vivian Hilliwell , a former commercial salmon harvester and now the Watershed Conservation Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen ’ s Associations ( PCFFA ). “ The possibility of revitalized Klamath fish runs gives us hope that we can continue our tradition of bringing healthy wild salmon to dinner tables across America .” Before the vote , FERC Chairman Richard Glick and other commissioners commented on why they supported dam removal on the Klamath River . In issuing the Final License Surrender Order , Glick stated , “ Dam removal makes sense in large part due to fish and wildlife protections . But there is a discussion in the order on the impact on Tribes and the ability to have their traditions and cultural practices improved ... I think it ’ s a very important issue . A number of years back the commission did not think about the impact of our decisions on Tribes . That ’ s an important element in today ’ s order …” The document for license surrender , decommissioning and removal of four dams – Copco No . 1 , Copco No . 2 , J . C . Boyle and Iron Gate – contains the FERC staff ’ s evaluation of the environmental , cultural and economic impacts associated with dam removal . The vote took place 20 years after a massive fish kill left over 60,000 adult salmon rotting along the banks of the Klamath River on the Yurok Reservation in September 2002 , a disaster that I was one of the first journalists to cover . The fish perished from disease spurred by low , warm water conditions under abysmal water management of the river by the G . W . Bush Administration .
“ The fish kill is a lot worse than everybody thinks ,” said a shaken Walt Lara , then the Requa representative to the Yurok Tribal Council , in a phone interview with me on Monday , September 23 , 2002 . “ It ’ s a lot larger than anything I ’ ve seen reported on the T . V . news or in the newspapers . The whole chinook run will be impacted , probably by 85 to 95 percent . And the fish are dying as we speak . They ’ re swimming around in circles . They bump up against your legs when you ’ re standing in the water . These are beautiful , chromebright fish that are dying , not fish that are already spawned out .” The fish kill served as a lightning rod to unite Klamath River Tribes , environmentalists , fishing groups and the public around the cause of dam removal and salmon restoration on the Klamath , the second largest producer of Chinook salmon in California next to the Sacramento River . “ After the 2002 Fish Kill we committed ourselves to defending our river and our cultures no matter what it would take ,” said Molli Myers , co-founder of the Klamath Justice Coalition and member of the Karuk Tribe . “ That kind of extraordinary commitment by ordinary Indians is what led to this victory .” According to the Tribes and groups , today ’ s Klamath River salmon returns are less than 5 % of their historical abundance with some runs of salmon completely extirpated from the system . Dams deny salmon access to hundreds of miles of historical habitat , degrade water quality , and foster the spread of fish diseases . Scientific studies and dam removal efforts in other watersheds demonstrate that dam removal can reverse these trends “ This is a historic day for the Tribes of the Klamath River and for Indigenous People all over the world . When we act together with a unified voice no power in this universe can stop us ,” said Ridges to Riffles Indigenous Conservation Group Principal and Yurok Tribal member Amy Cordalis . “ This is one of the final permits and decisions needed for dam removal , and is the most important approval ,” said Regina Chichizola , co-director of Save California Salmon . “ It is only happening due to the Klamath River Tribes and communities refusing to give up . Congratulations to the Klamath River Communities .” “ I inherited the responsibility to take care of my relatives , the salmon , from my father ,” concluded Save California Salmon Education Director Charley Reed , who was seven years old when with the Klamath fish kill set the “ Bring the Salmon Home ” movement in motion . “ While I have spent most of my life as an activist at protests and rallies , my hope is for my children to spend more time fishing and less time protesting .” Following formal acceptance of the license transfer by the states and the KRRC , parties led by the Klamath River Renewal Corporation ( KRRC ) will take a number of pre-construction steps during 2023 to lay the groundwork to complete removal of the dams , according to a statement from the California Natural Resources Agency ( CNRA ). The Copco No . 2 dam will be removed as soon as the summer of 2023 under the approved plan , with removal of J . C . Boyle , Copco No . 1
By Dan Bacher
and Iron Gate dams planned during 2024 , the CNRA stated . The four dams are located in Klamath County , Oregon and Siskiyou County California . “ The FERC order paves the way for enactment of a settlement agreement nearly 15 years in the making by California , Oregon , the Yurok and Karuk Tribes , Berkshire Hathaway Energy-owned utility company PacifiCorp , fishing groups , and other stakeholders to carry out the ambitious plan to remove dams , and address fish populations , river health and Tribal communities and cultures ,” CNRA wrote . Oregon Governor Kate Brown and California Governor Gavin Newsom celebrated today ’ s FERC vote also . “ This enormous step forward will make historic progress in revitalizing the Klamath River , which is vital to the sustainability of all communities in the Klamath Basin ,” said Governor Kate Brown . “ Beyond ecological restoration , this is also an act of restorative justice . Since time immemorial , the Indigenous peoples of the Klamath Basin have preserved the lands , waters , fish , and wildlife of this treasured region — and this project will not only improve its water and fish habitat , but also boost our economy . I am grateful for the hard work and perseverance of the region ’ s tribes , and the partnership of California , who have come together for many years to make this possible .” “ Today ’ s action culminates more than a decade of work to revitalize the Klamath River and its vital role in the tribal communities , cultures and livelihoods sustained by it ,” echoed Governor Gavin Newsom . “ California is grateful for the partnership of Oregon , the Yurok and Karuk Tribes , Berkshire Hathaway and the many other stakeholders who came together to make this transformative effort a reality for the generations to come .” Save California Salmon summed up today ’ s action very well : “ We won . The Klamath Dams are coming down .” As a journalist who has written hundreds of articles about the Klamath River , its fish and the battle by Tribes , fishermen and environmentalists to undam the Klamath and restore its fish populations , I applaud FERC ’ s vote today to approve Klamath dam removal .
As an angler who has spent many hours fishing for salmon and steelhead on the Klamath and Trinity rivers since 1986 , I fondly remember experiencing the best salmon fishing of my life on the Klamath in the fall of 2002 and 2012 , even better than anything I have experienced in British Columbia , Alaska and Oregon . I look forward to seeing the dams removed and the fish once again running into the Upper Basin and spawning as they did for eons until the dams were built .