/ / / BREAKING KLAMATH RIVER DAM REMOVAL: Feds Approve License Transfer in Major Step Toward Klamath Dam Removal 
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BREAKING KLAMATH RIVER DAM REMOVAL: Feds Approve License Transfer in Major Step Toward Klamath Dam Removal 

The Copco No. 1 Dam on the Klamath River is scheduled for removal by 2023. Michael Wier / CalTrout

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Approves License Transfer for Lower Klamath Hydro Project

By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News Publisher

Opening up the Klamath River along the California and Oregon border from four dams is one major step closer to happening.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved the transfer of the license for the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project (Project) from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) and the states of Oregon and California, as co-licensees.

The Klamath River is one of only three rivers that bisect the Cascade Mountain Range, flowing from the high-desert interior through coastal rain forest to the Pacific Ocean, according to Rivers.gov. The river flows through a beautiful and remote canyon lined with pine and oak trees, and is also well known for all sorts of outdoor pursuits, like fishing, camping, hiking and biking. Photos were captured in June of 2016 by Bob Wick, BLM

Locals, under the leadership of Richard Marshall, president of Siskiyou County Water Users, have been fighting this license transfer. The Karuk Tribe and environmental groups have been waging a war to rip out the dams. The Karuks appear to be winning the war.

Klamath tribes dam removal demo
Klamath Basin Tribes and allies from the commercial fishing and conservation organizations stage a rally at the bi-annual meeting of the international hydropower industry- Hydrovision 2006. The Tribes are calling for the removal of PacifiCorp’s four Klamath River dams to help restore Klamath Salmon runs. Photo Patrick McCully Flickr

Since 2016, PacifiCorp, along with a coalition of state and federal agencies, Tribes, the States of Oregon and California, and other stakeholders, have worked together to propose surrender of the Project license, which includes a plan to decommission the four dams on the Klamath River that comprise the Project.  Today’s transfer is another important step in the ongoing surrender proceeding.

“Today’s order confirms that the Renewal Corporation has the ability, financially and otherwise, to undertake dam removal, and with the states, as co-licensees, the necessary legal and technical expertise required for such a huge undertaking,” FERC stated in a press release.  “The surrender application is still pending before the Commission and is awaiting further environmental review as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.  The Commission will continue to engage with all parties and stakeholders to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the surrender proceeding.”

The Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River near Hornbrook, Calif., is one of four that will be removed in 2023 as part of a new agreement. (Matthew Wier/CalTrout)

The vote by FERC marks a key milestone in the decades-long effort to restore the Klamath River for the communities, fish, and wildlife.

“This is a crucial and significant step forward in accomplishing KRRC’s core mission to remove the four lower Klamath dams and restore a free-flowing river,” said Jim Root, President of the KRRC Board and a Basin landowner. Root noted that the KRRC project will constitute the largest dam removal and river recovery effort in U.S. history.

“I am deeply appreciative to all of the parties who have supported this project over the years, and I wish to especially note the significant and sustained efforts of our Tribal partners,” he said.

California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot expressed gratitude to FERC for advancing the dam-removal project.

“We’re excited and thankful for the progress,” he said. “A great deal more work and steadfast collaboration must occur between the States, Tribes, federal government and communities of the Klamath Basin to achieve long-term prosperity for all, and we stand ready for that.”

KRRC and PacifiCorp originally jointly filed a Transfer Application in 2016. In July 2020, FERC issued a ruling that approved partial transfer of the Lower Klamath Project license to KRRC, provided that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee, which was inconsistent with the 2010 Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). In order to keep the dam removal effort on track, KRRC, PacifiCorp, and the States signed of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that called for transferring the license from PacifiCorp to KRRC and the States and removing PacifiCorp from the license. KRRC, PacifiCorp and the States jointly submitted a License Transfer Application to FERC in January 2021. The application stipulated that KRRC would lead the effort to remove the four Klamath hydroelectric dams as the “dam removal entity” as called for in the KHSA.

“The news from FERC is very positive and moves us forward on the long path to dam removal,” said Mark Bransom, the CEO of KRRC, “We must also secure FERC’s approval of our Surrender Application, but today’s decision by the Commissioners certainly boosts our optimism about the road ahead.”  The Surrender Application includes KRRC’s detailed plan for facilities removal and restoration of the project footprint.

Reaching today’s milestone reflects decades of collective work by the many dedicated Signatories of the 2016 Amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and all champions of a Klamath River that harbors healthy runs of salmon in river stretches and tributaries where they have been cut off for a century.

Dam removal and river restoration will help Basin communities to thrive, creating a more robust regional economy.  Revitalizing the river begins with dam removal followed immediately by a multi-million dollar restoration effort to restore habitat in areas that were once inundated by the reservoirs behind the dams.

KRRC plans to commence dam removal in 2023 and is doing everything within its power to secure the regulatory approvals needed to meet that goal.

FERC Docket No.:  P-2082-062

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is a private, independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2016 by 23 signatories of the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, or KHSA. KRRC is part of a cooperative effort to re-establish the natural vitality of the Klamath River so that it can support all communities in the Klamath Basin. Signatories, which include the States of California and Oregon, local governments, Tribal nations, dam owner PacifiCorp, irrigators, and several conservation and fishing groups, appointed KRRC to take ownership and oversee removal of four hydroelectric dams on the river. KRRC’s work is funded by PacifiCorp customer surcharges and California Proposition 1 water bond funds. 

More information about KRRC and its mission can be found at the KRRC’s website: www.klamathrenewal.org. 

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