Iron Gate Dam on Klamath River. Image credit: American Rivers.
Last week, after years of negotiations, 28 involved parties agreed on a plan to tear down the four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, which is on the California and Oregon border, by 2020. American Rivers has played a leading role in these negotiations for the past nine years.
When the Klamath dams come down it will be the biggest dam removal project the world has ever seen. It is exciting to see the momentum behind this historic river restoration effort - one that promises to not only restore the health of the river, but also boost local economies and revitalize communities. The project will help restore the river and revive its ailing salmon and steelhead runs. This will aid fishing and tribal communities who have suffered as these once abundant fish populations have dwindled over the past few decades. Farmers will also benefit from the certainty a restored river will provide them.
The dams, built between 1908 and 1962, cut off 300 miles of salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the Upper Klamath, which was once the third most productive salmon river on the West Coast. The dams also create toxic conditions in the reservoirs that threaten the health of both people and fish. In fact, some fish species are near extinction.
And this agreement is also a win-win as it is a good thing for PacifiCorp customers, too. A study by the California Energy Commission and the Department of the Interior found that removing the dams and replacing their power would save PacifiCorp customers up to $285 million over 30 years.
While 2020 may seem like a ways off, this is a major step in securing that this monumental project will become a reality. But if you'd like to see the revived Klamath today, visit the American Rivers website. Using powerful GIS software, we have generated a 3-dimensional photo-realistic digital model of the Klamath River valley that depicts the landscape before and after the removal of two of the dams. Watch on a grand scale as a river comes back to life.