The Klamath dams block salmon and steelhead from reaching more than 300 miles of spawning and rearing habitat in the upper basin. Historically, the Upper Klamath-Trinity Rivers spring-run Chinook salmon was the most abundant run on the river. Today less than 3% remain, in large part because they cannot access historical habitat in the Upper Klamath Basin. The four dams have been in a perpetual Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process since 2000, originally started by then-owner PacificCorp.
While there is broad support for the removal of these defunct dams, there is some local opposition to the project, including from landowners around the current reservoirs and some local ranchers and farmers.
A non-profit organization, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), was formed in 2016 to take ownership of four PacifiCorp-owned dams (Copco #1, Copco #2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle), for the purpose of overseeing the dam removal process. That work will include restoring formerly inundated lands and implementing required mitigation measures in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations. PacifiCorp will continue to operate the dams until FERC approves a license transfer to KRRC.
KRRC is currently working to secure permits, develop deconstruction plans, secure bids for the work of removing dams and restoring the lands under the reservoirs, and contract with a design-build firm to run the majority of the deconstruction project.
One important remaining step is the transfer of the FERC license from PacifiCorp to KRRC. This is currently pending before FERC and is expected to be completed by summer of 2019.
All the pieces are in place for these dams to be removed by 2021 pending the license transfer. Funding for the projects is set, with up to $450 million secured from PacifiCorp ratepayers and the state of California through the 2014 Proposition 1 Water Bond. An independent group of expert consultants have assessed whether existing funding is sufficient for KRRC to complete the dam removal project. The consultants determined that the KRRC’s methodology and approach to assessing costs and risk is generally sound and it is likely that there will be sufficient funding within the state cost cap ($450M) to complete the project.
Removing the Klamath dams will be the largest dam removal project in the world, restoring access to native fish species’ historical cold-water habitat.
Matilija Dam is located in the Ventura River watershed on Matilija Creek, north of Ojai. The concrete arch dam, built in 1947, was originally designed for water storage and flood control. Scissors painted on the dam by graffiti artists in 2011 have become an iconic symbol for dam removal.Donate Today