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One step closer to restoring the Klamath River

Thursday, May 9, delivered more good news on the Klamath River restoration front.

PacifiCorp, the utility that owns the four old hydropower dams slated for removal under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), announced it has entered into a site access agreement with Kiewit Infrastructure West Company “to allow the firm to conduct initial surveying and other work connected to planned removal of four dams on the Klamath River.”

The site access agreement follows an announcement by the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) on April 25, 2019 that it had signed an initial contract with Kiewit to perform preliminary services that include design, planning and permitting support to carry out dam removal.

Brian J. Johnson, director of Trout Unlimited’s California Program and TU’s representative in the settlement agreement process, said “The site access agreement and the KRRC’s contract with Kiewit represent two major steps forward for restoration of the Klamath River, and the momentum for removing the four old fish-blocking dams has never been stronger. Moving forward with the KHSA is good for fishing, tribal communities, and ratepayers.”

Johnson noted that the Klamath River, historically, has been the third most productive river for salmon and steelhead on the West Coast and that the dam removal effort is supplemented by work TU and other parties are doing in the upper Klamath Basin to restore water quality and aquatic and riparian habitat, and to improve water security.

Removal of the dams would occur as soon as 2021 upon approval of the agreement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

PacifiCorp issued a joint press release with the Yurok and Karuk Tribes on the signing of the site access agreement. The two tribes are parties to the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and applauded the hiring of Kiewit as general contractor for dam removal and the firm’s site access agreement with PacifiCorp as key steps in fulfilling the terms of the KHSA.

“PacifiCorp remains fully committed to successful implementation of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, which will result in removal of the lower four Klamath River dams coupled with customer protections,” said Scott Bolton, senior vice president for Pacific Power, a division of PacifiCorp that serves electricity customers in Oregon, California, and Washington.

Bolton added, “The agreement provides a better outcome for our customers compared to the unknown costs and risk of relicensing the dams. PacifiCorp appreciates the expertise Kiewit brings to this endeavor and the continued hard work of our settlement partners as we move to fully implement this important agreement.”

Photo of Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River courtesy of Thomas B. Dunklin.