It seems like fish and fisherman have taken a back seat to other interests for far too long but recently this group scored a major victory in the Klamath River Dam Removal project. Despite over a century of anthropogenic impacts including timber harvest, dams, and water development, the Klamath River still maintains an interesting array of fisheries along with copious opportunities to pursue them. However, with the removal of the dams the hope is that this river will be super charged with fish and the fishing community is eagerly paying attention.
It is no secret that salmonids on the West Coast are in decline, so when the potential removal of four Klamath River Dams was announced in 2010, it was a huge step in the right direction for these resilient fish and a win for conservation. On February 25, 2022 the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Hydropower License Surrender and Decommissioning for the Lower Klamath Dams, which moves the project one step closer to fruition (FERC 2022a).
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The Klamath Dam Removal Project consists of the removal of four dams on the Klamath River within Klamath County, Oregon and Siskiyou County, California. The four dams planned for removal include J. C. Boyle, Copco #1, Copco #2, and Iron Gate (FERC 2022a). The dams were previously owned by PacifiCorp and transferred to the non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) in 2016 (Congress Research Service 2022). Built between 1918 and 1962 (KRRC 2022) they block upstream migration of salmon and steelhead to historic spawning and rearing habitat. The removal of the dams will result in improvements that will benefit salmonids as well as other wildlife species throughout the Klamath system (FERC 2022a).
The three salmonid species present in the Klamath River are Chinook, steelhead, and federally Threatened Coho. The findings in FERC’s DEIS concludes that the project will have a permanent, significant beneficial effect on salmon and steelhead, specifically describing the following:
- Access to additional habitat and cool-water refugia upstream of Iron Gate Dam would increase the numbers of naturally produced salmon and steelhead and increase the resiliency of these populations to ongoing increases in water temperature.
- Improved water temperature regime for anadromous fish spawning, rearing, and migrating in the mainstem Klamath River.
- Increased recruitment of gravel downstream of Iron Gate Dam would improve spawning habitat for salmon.
- Reduced crowding, temperature stress, and pathogen densities would decrease disease incidence.
FERC’s DEIS is open to public comment until April 18, 2022, just one month from today. This is the public’s opportunity comment on the contents of the DEIS.
A step-by-step guide on how to file comments with FERC can be found here: How to file a Comment | Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (ferc.gov) (FERC 2022b).
Congress Research Service. 2022. Klamath River Dam Removal and Restoration. IF11616 (congress.gov) Accessed March 15, 2022.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 2022a. Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Hydropower License Surrender and Decommissioning of the Lower Klamath Project No. 14803. FERC Staff Issues the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Hydropower License Surrender and Decommissioning of the Lower Klamath Project No. 14803 (P-14803-001) | Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Accessed March 15, 2022.
FERC. 2022b. How to File a Comment. How to file a Comment | Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (ferc.gov) Accessed March 16, 2022.
Klamath River Renewal Corporation. 2022. Klamath River Renewal Project. The Project (klamathrenewal.org) Accessed March 15, 2022.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2014. Final Recovery Plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Evolutionary Significant Unit of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). noaa_15985_DS1.pdf Accessed March 15, 2022.