Interior Secretary supports Klamath River dam removals in letter to FERC

Klamath River Dam

Deb Haaland, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, has submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of the removal of four controversial Klamath River dams and hydro projects.

The projects are the Klamath Hydroelectric Project and Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project. The four specific facilities are: J.C. Boyle Dam, a 98-MW earthfill dam built in 1958; Copco 1 Dam, a 20-MW concrete dam built in 1918; Copco 2 Dam, a 27-MW concrete dam built in 1925; and, Iron Gate Dam, a 18-MW earthfill dam built in 1962.

In the letter, stamped June 10, Haaland says, “Dam removal would provide a unique opportunity to reopen more than 420 miles of historic spawning and rearing habitat, significantly improve water quality, and bring new recreational opportunities and jobs to the Basin.”

Haaland urged FERC “to initiate its environmental review, consider the robust record before it, and act expeditiously to approve the pending applications.”

Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell submitted a letter to FERC in 2016 supporting the license transfer and surrender of pending applications for these two projects.

In November 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp announced an agreement to provide additional resources and support to advance the removal of the four dams and powerhouses. The project, when completed, will address declines in fish populations, improve river health and renew Tribal communities and cultures, PacifiCorp said in a press release.

“The Klamath River is a centerpiece of tribal community, culture and sustenance and a national ecological treasure,” Governor Newsom said. “With this agreement, we are closer than ever to restoring access to 400 miles of salmon habitat which will be a boon to the local economy. I am grateful for the partnership between California and Oregon, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway that proves when we work together, we can build a better, more inclusive future for all.”

Implementation of the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, signed in 2016, requires two approvals by FERC. First, FERC must approve the transfer of the license for the dams from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corp. and the states. Second, FERC must approve the dam removal plan.

DOI conserves and manages the natural resources and cultural heritage of the U.S. for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people; provides scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people; and honors the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.

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