July 18, 2023 –– Work has begun on the biggest dam removal project in U.S. history, a move welcomed by California’s Native American population that has historically relied on salmon fishing.
Following approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year, PacificCorp was allowed to surrender it license for four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, establishing the framework for the removal of four dams on the Klamath system. The dams do not provide irrigation or drinking water. The hydropower generated is about half of what could be generated in better climate conditions. A larger factor in the decision was the dams’ effect on the salmon population and drought.
The four dams to be decommissioned in the $500 million removal project include:
- Iron Gate Dam;
- Copco Dams 1 and 2; and
- J. C. Boyle Dam.
One of the dams is now gone. Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports that “all that remains of the dam known as Copco 2 in Siskiyou County, California, is the headworks of a diversion tunnel adjacent to the now free-flowing river.” OPB writes that 400 miles of fish habitat that was cut off for more than a century will be reopened once all four dams have been removed, and that the remaining three dams are slated for removal in January.
A view across the Klamath River of apparatus moving on a dirt road, public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.