J C Boyle Dam, one of four dams to be removed on the Klamath River
The US states of California and Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe, PacifiCorp and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) have signed an agreement that updates plans to remove four dams on the Klamath River.
California Governor Gavin Newsom joined with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp in announcing the agreement, which describes how the parties will implement the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) as negotiated and signed in 2016. The agreement will provide additional resources and support to advance what has been described as the most ambitious salmon restoration effort in history.
“The Klamath River is a centerpiece of tribal community, culture and sustenance and a national ecological treasure,” Governor Newsom said. “With this agreement, we are closer than ever to restoring access to 400 miles of salmon habitat which will be a boon to the local economy. I am grateful for the partnership between California and Oregon, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway that proves when we work together, we can build a better, more inclusive future for all.”
With the Memorandum of Agreement, the parties:
- Jointly ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to remove PacifiCorp from the license for the project and add California, Oregon and KRRC as co-licensees for carrying out dam removal. Adding the states as co-licensees provides assurances that the project will have sufficient financial backing while honoring settlement terms that stipulate PacifiCorp would not be a co-licensee for removal.
- Demonstrate their firm commitment to dam removal.
- Agree to nearly double available contingency funds held by KRRC and contractors and, in the unlikely event that additional funds are needed beyond that, Oregon, California and PacifiCorp will share the costs equally to address FERC’s requirement to ensure full funding for the project.
- Confirm that the KRRC will remain the dam removal entity for the project.
- Plan to navigate the final regulatory approvals necessary to allow the project to begin in 2022 with dam removal in 2023. Site remediation and restoration will continue beyond 2023.
- Retain the liability protections for PacifiCorp’s customers established in the KHSA.
Taken together, these provisions are intended to resolve FERC’s concerns raised in a July 2020 order and ensure a successful dam removal project.
“This is an incredibly important step forward on the path towards restorative justice for the people of the Klamath Basin, and towards restoring health to the river as well as everyone and everything that depends on it,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said. “From time immemorial, the stewardship of the indigenous peoples of the Klamath basin have nurtured the lands, waters, fish and wildlife of this region. In Oregon, the Klamath tribes remember a time when their livelihoods were supported by clean, healthy, and vibrant waters. It is that vision, that promise, that we are working towards restoring for the generations to come.”
“As Yurok tribal people, it is our sacred duty to bring balance to the Klamath River,” Yurok Tribe Chair Joseph James said. “At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people. We have never wavered from this obligation and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement. Reaching this important milestone would not be possible without the many tribal people who have dedicated their lives to restoring the river. We want to thank Berkshire Hathaway, PacifiCorp, California, Oregon, and the Karuk Tribe. Although we are excited to be moving forward again, we want to emphasize that the Yurok Tribe will never rest until the dams are out and the river is healed. From the families on the Klamath we want to thank the Buffett family for their support and leadership.”
“We deeply appreciate the efforts of Governors Newsom and Brown, the Yurok Tribe and the leadership of Berkshire Hathaway to forge a path forward on dam removal,” Karuk Tribe Chair Russell “Buster” Attebery said. “We are more confident than ever that future generations of Karuk will enjoy the benefits of a healthy Klamath River just as their ancestors did dating back to the beginning of time. Most importantly, this moment is a testament to years of devotion and hard work by the community of activists representing all Tribes on the river who have never tired of demanding justice for their communities.”
Implementation of the amended KHSA requires two approvals by FERC. First, FERC must approve the transfer of the license for the dams from PacifiCorp to the KRRC and the states. Second, FERC must approve the dam removal plan.
In response to news of the agreement, conservation and commercial fishing organizations signalled their support.
“We’re closer than ever to achieving a healthy, free-flowing Klamath River. We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom and Governor Kate Brown for their commitment to river restoration and we are grateful for the leadership of the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath tribes in getting us to today’s milestone,” said Bob Irvin, President, American Rivers. “We are thankful to PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway for working out a solution that benefits all parties. Restoring the Klamath River is vital to addressing decades of injustice to the river’s Indigenous Peoples and is essential to the region’s economy and way of life.”
“It’s great to see the project continuing to move forward. Big dam removals take time. It’s been 20 years since this process of assessing the dams started. It’s been 100 plus years since Klamath salmon, which tribal communities depend upon, had access to the upper basin. This latest agreement all but paves the way for the largest river restoration project in US history to finally be completed,” added Curtis Knight, Executive Director, California Trout
“[The} agreement solves the remaining issues associated with the project and clears the way for dam removal. This is not a back-up plan. This is a better version of the plan,” said Brian J. Johnson, California Director, Trout Unlimited.
The plan involves the removal of the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate dams.