In a landmark development, the removal of the Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River, as part of the most extensive dam removal and river restoration project in US history, kicks off today. The drawdown of Iron Gate Reservoir begins as a crucial step toward the eventual removal of all hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in northern California and southern Oregon.

The Iron Gate Reservoir’s drawdown commenced today, initiating the process that will lead to the removal of Iron Gate Dam later this year. Subsequent to this, two other dams, Copco #1 and JC Boyle, are scheduled to start draining in the coming weeks and will be entirely removed during the summer/fall timeframe. Copco #2, the smallest of the four slated dams, was already demolished in October 2023.

The expansive project represents a collective endeavour to address a century-long challenge to fish migration, while also recognizing and celebrating indigenous heritage. Today, a diverse gathering, including current and former state and federal agency staff, tribal members, contractors, local officials, and others, are participating in dam tours and celebrations along the riverbanks. A special guest is also traveling to join the festivities — the Happy Fish.

Originating from the Netherlands in the “Fish Migration River Afsluitdijk” project, the Happy Fish serves as a symbol of positive outcomes achieved through collaborative efforts to open waterways connecting fish, rivers, and communities. Crafted by Dutch artist Bruno Doedens, the iconic statue, with its distinctive big smile, represents the harmonious relationship between art and landscape. Three Happy Fish statues exist on three continents.

The Happy Fish is a representative of World Fish Migration Day (WFMD), a global awareness campaign hosted every two years by the World Fish Migration Foundation. The 6th edition of WFMD, themed “Free Flow,” is set to take place on May 25, 2024, celebrating the liberation of rivers worldwide.

Herman Wanningen, Director of the World Fish Migration Foundation, shares the goals for 2024: “With WFMD2024, our goal is to strengthen the connections between fish, rivers, and people in people’s minds. We want to inspire people to imagine life with migratory fishes and freer flowing rivers and suggest ways that they can act to create positive change. So, we encourage everyone to create their WFMD event and celebrate with us and millions all over the world.”