The Klamath River Basin was once home to one of the West’s most prolific salmon fisheries. But for more than a century, efforts to harness the natural power of the river through the installation of hydroelectric dams, have contributed to devastating declines in water quality, the region’s anadromous fisheries, and the tribal, recreational, and commercial economies and communities they support.
The dams mentioned (Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2, and JC Boyle) are blocking salmon and steelhead from reaching more than 300 miles of spawning and rearing habitat in the upper basin. CalTrout has been involved with the removal of these dams for many years, and we will continue to be until they are taken down.
This will be the largest dam removal and river restoration efforts ever performed in U.S. history. The Klamath dam removal initiative received an enormous boost in late 2020, when a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was announced by PacifiCorp, the States of California and Oregon, the Karuk and Yurok Tribes, and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC). Warren Buffett, who owns the company that owns the dams, praised the unprecedented agreement. Then in January of 2021, it was announced that the ecological restoration company, Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC would be taking the role as lead restoration contractor.
While some of the biggest steps to opening up this historic habitat are yet to come, the work of so many partners over the years to enhance fish passage in the Klamath Basin has set the stage for dramatic improvements when the dams finally come down. Stay tuned as this story of fish passage in the Klamath Basin nears what could be an exciting next chapter!
Want to learn more about Klamath dam removal? Check out CBS News’ story, featuring epic aerial footage of the dams by CalTrout’s own Mike Wier.