Plans for the largest dam removal and river recovery project in US history took a major step forward yesterday when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the transfer of the Lower Klamath Project License from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) and the States of Oregon and California.

“This is a crucial and significant step forward in accomplishing KRRC’s core mission to remove the four lower Klamath dams and restore a free-flowing river,” said Jim Root, President of the KRRC Board and a Basin landowner. “I am deeply appreciative to all of the parties who have supported this project over the years, and I wish to especially note the significant and sustained efforts of our Tribal partners.” 

FERC decision to transfer the license confirms that KRRC has the ability, financially and otherwise, to undertake dam removal, and with the states, as co-licensees, the necessary legal and technical expertise required for such a huge undertaking.  

KRRC and PacifiCorp originally jointly filed a Transfer Application in 2016. In July 2020, FERC issued a ruling that approved partial transfer of the Lower Klamath Project license to KRRC, provided that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee, which was inconsistent with the 2010 Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). 

In order to keep the dam removal effort on track, KRRC, PacifiCorp, and the States signed of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that called for transferring the license from PacifiCorp to KRRC and the States and removing PacifiCorp from the license. KRRC, PacifiCorp and the States jointly submitted a License Transfer Application to FERC in January 2021. The application stipulated that KRRC would lead the effort to remove the four Klamath hydroelectric dams as the “dam removal entity” as called for in the KHSA.

“The news from FERC is very positive and moves us forward on the long path to dam removal,” said Mark Bransom, the CEO of KRRC, “We must also secure FERC’s approval of our Surrender Application, but today’s decision by the Commissioners certainly boosts our optimism about the road ahead.”  

The Surrender Application includes KRRC’s detailed plan for facilities removal and restoration of the project footprint. The surrender application is still pending before the Commission and is awaiting further environmental review as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.  

If everything goes ahead, KRRC plans to commence dam removal in 2023 and said it is doing everything within its power to secure the regulatory approvals needed to meet that goal. The plan involves the removal of the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate dams.

J C Boyle Dam, one of four dams to be removed on the Klamath River