Last fall, we caught up with the folks at California Trout to get the skinny on the pending removal of four Klamath River dams, and now that the first dam teardown has started, it’s something to celebrate. Here’s Cal Trout with the update in its Summer edition of The Current magazine:
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is the nonprofit corporation formed as an outcome of the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. The settlement agreement, amended in 2016, called for the formation of a dam removal entity that would be responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and completing legal, administrative, and technical work in anticipation of decommissioning the project, taking ownership of the project, and then decommissioning the project. CalTrout was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to this settlement, which turned the idea of dam removal into a fully funded project.
“I believe that [through dam removal] we are making an effort to create conditions that allow both salmonids and human communities to regain a toehold in this amazing watershed,” Klamath River Renewal Corporation Chief Executive Officer Mark Bransom said. “We are making an effort to restore some balance by creating conditions that acknowledge the world we’re living in today is not likely to be the same world that we’re living in tomorrow.”
By the end of September 2023, Copco #2 dam will be removed. Bransom anticipates drawdown of the reservoirs to begin in early January 2024 and to wrap up around May 2024. Physical dam removal will immediately follow the drawdown.
“By the late fall of 2024, we should have all of the dams removed and will have re-established a free-flowing condition in the mainstem through the entire hydroelectric reach,” Bransom said.
Towards the end of 2024, revegetation and restoration work will begin, extending into 2025 and beyond. Approximately 2,500 acres surrounding the river will receive some form of restoration work, primarily revegetation. Contractors have been busy collecting seeds and propagating thousands of plants in anticipation of the revegetation effort. For the restoration work, KRRC plans to take an adaptive management approach.
“We want to allow the river to reestablish itself and find its course over the period following dam removal,” Bransom said.
As they watch the mainstem of the channel take shape, KRRC will determine what restoration or habitat improvement work, if any, might be beneficial. Throughout the process, KRRC will monitor sediment transport and deposition, specifically looking at critical tributaries to ensure their connectivity to the mainstem remains intact.