Klamath River Dams Transfer Ownership, Paving the Way for their Removal

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has officially approved a partial transfer of ownership for the four lower dams sitting on the Klamath River. The ownerhsip of the dams were transferred from Pacificorp, who have owned them since 1956, to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) for purpose of removal.

The removal of the Klamath River dams will be the largest dam removal project in the history of the world.

“As we’ve seen time after time on rivers across the country, dam removal works. Thanks to FERC’s decision today, the Klamath River is on the way to rebounding back to life. With ongoing cooperation from PacifiCorp and federal regulators, our children and future generations will know a healthy, free-flowing Klamath River,” said Curtis Knight, Executive Director of California Trout.

The agreement allows PacifiCorp to transfer the dams and $200 million to the KRRC and then make a clean break from the project. While FERC’s conditional approval today requires PacifiCorp to remain involved, it also outlines a clear path towards dam removal.

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Good news! 🙌 This morning the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the partial transfer of ownership of the lower four Klamath River dams from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) for the purpose of removal. The approval is conditioned on PacifiCorp remaining a co-licensee.⁣ LINK IN BIO ⁣ “As we’ve seen time after time on rivers across the country, dam removal works. Thanks to FERC’s decision today, the Klamath River is on the way to rebounding back to life. With ongoing cooperation from PacifiCorp and federal regulators, our children and future generations will know a healthy, free-flowing Klamath River,” said Curtis Knight, Executive Director of California Trout.⁣ ⁣ This is a huge opportunity and makes us one step closer to accomplishing the largest dam removal in US history. #DAMSOUT⁣ ⁣ 📷: Mike Wier⁣ ⁣ #caltrout #cawater #flyfishing #fishing #damremoval #outdoors #conservation #klamathdams #klamathriver #salmon #steelhead

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“We can work with this,” says Karuk Chairman Russell ‘Buster’ Attebery. “We understand that we will need to reconvene settlement parties and make adjustments as needed to reflect PacifiCorp’s goals. We remain committed to our partnership with PacifiCorp as we remain committed to Klamath dam removal.”

Klamath communities that depend on salmon fisheries for economic and cultural survival have campaigned for years to remove the lower four Klamath dams. The dams provide no irrigation diversions, no drinking water, and almost no flood control benefit. The dams were built for hydropower but managing the aging structures today costs more than they’re worth.

“Rural communities including tribal communities throughout the Klamath Basin from to the headwaters to the mouth of the river will benefit from dam removal.  At its heart, Klamath Dam removal is a fish restoration project that will benefit all communities in the Klamath Basin including agricultural interests throughout the basin,” explains Yurok Vice-Chairman Frankie Myers.

Declining fish populations have led to water curtailments to the Klamath Irrigation Project, located above the dams.  Meanwhile downstream Tribes have curtailed or cancelled fish harvests for the first time in millennia.  Klamath Dam removal will increase fish populations including abundance, diversity and resiliency and many believe it to be a key to ending strife over water that plagues the basin every year.

The project comes following a monumental federal lawsuit won by the Hoopa Valley Tribe which requires PacifiCorp to adhere to mandatory requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River, which they have avoided for over a decade. In order to operate the dams, the company needs a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They haven’t had a license since 2006 and have instead operated on temporary licenses which enabled them to avoid completing water certifications which force modernization of the dam. Not anymore, said the court.

PacifiCorp was operating under a license from 1956, which was well before the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, fish passage provisions and water flow requirements. While the company was working on the temporary licenses, they made $27 million in profits per year.

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