Klamath dam removals, habitat restoration, begins
Crews have begun working on removing four dams on the Klamath River which tribes and other groups have lobbied to take down for decades.
The early removal work involves upgrading bridges and constructing roads to allow greater access to the remote dams, which are expected to be fully down by the end of 2024. The dam removal on the 38-mile stretch of the river comes after an agreement between the last dam owner PacifiCorp, California, Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe and a multitude of environmental organizations, with the goal of restoring salmon populations.
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation held a news conference on Thursday giving an update on their work in dismantling the dams and restoring habitats.
“We have broken ground on the world’s biggest salmon restoration project to date, and as most of you all know, this can’t come a moment too soon,” Craig Tucker, the Natural Resources Policy Advocate for the Karuk Tribe, said at the news conference. “Recent news stories have been circulating about how dismal the forecast for salmon will be this year in California. I expect there’ll be a near-total closure of all commercial and recreational fishing in the ocean this year. We expect there to be near-total closures of commercial tribal and recreational fishing in the Klamath River and similar in the Sacramento system. So salmon are in dire straits and projects like this are exactly what we need.”
The Pacific Fishery Management Council plans to cancel this year’s California salmon season due to plummeting Chinook populations.
The project — funded by $200 million from PacifiCorp and $250 million from a California Water Bond — also includes habitat restoration activities, including 17 billion native seeds that will be planted along the river.
“Dam removal can be a little bit of a messy business, so we’re here to get reservoir sediment stabilized through the re-establishment of native vegetation, provide some immediate high-quality habitat,” Dave Coffman, the Northern California and Southern Oregon director of Resource Environmental Solutions, said.
“High quality habitat, like I mentioned, hasn’t been available to these fish for over 100 years, and hopefully they’re as excited as we are to get back in there,” he added.
In order to complete the project, several sites are being developed to accommodate a workforce, including trailers, office space, lodging, an RV park and bike facilities for construction crews, which can be used for future restoration projects across the Pacific Northwest, Coffman said.
Wendy Ferris, a KRRC board member appointed by the Karuk Tribe, spoke at the news conference to say that restoring the Klamath River and removing the dams is unspeakably important to local tribes because it represents a step toward greater environmental stewardship in accordance with tribal practices.
“Governments came and went and elected officials came and went and activists came and went and although many of them are gone now, we’ve been able to accomplish this huge victory,” Ferris said.
Jackson Guilfoil can be reached at 707-441-0506.