Five hundred miles. That’s a pretty significant distance, right? Now, imagine swimming that far.
That’s how many river miles will re-opened to native steelhead in the Klamath River under the terms of a revised agreement between the federal government, the states of California and Oregon, and the utility company PacifiCorp.
The amended Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement, and the Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement were signed today at the mouth of the Klamath River by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., of California, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and PacifiCorp CEO Stefan Bird.
Under the new-and-improved KHSA, four old, unproductive hydropower dams on the Klamath River will be removed beginning in the year 2020. This action will open up 500 miles of habitat for steelhead and some 420 miles for salmon.
PacifiCorp and the state of California will pay for the cost of dam removal using existing funds already set aside for this purpose. No federal funds will be required.
“This is a major win for one of America’s greatest coldwater fisheries,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “The river restoration called for under the new KHSA will be the largest in U.S. history. TU is proud to have played an important role in the long effort to bring about this restoration and to resolve one of our country’s most intractable water challenges.”
TU California Director Brian Johnson has been closely involved in the many years of difficult negotiations that led to the amended agreement. Johnson attended the signing ceremony today and spoke to the benefits of the agreement for fish-and people.
“The Klamath, historically, has been the third most productive river system for salmon and steelhead on the West Coast,” he said. “Thanks to the leadership of Secretary Jewell, Gov. Brown of California and Gove. Brown of Oregon, and PacifiCorp, we now have a real chance to return it to its former glory.”
At the same time, Johnson added, “TU remains dedicated not only to restoring one of America’s greatest salmon and steelhead fisheries, but also to adoption of durable water-sharing agreements that will provide greater water security for tribes, upper basin agriculture and communities up and down the river.”
TU issued a joint statement today on the signing of the amended KHSA, with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, California Trout, the Northern California Council of the International Federation of Fly Fishers and American Rivers. The statement declares strong support for dam removal on the Klamath and calls for renewed commitment to a “basin-wide solution for water sharing, water supply infrastructure, and habitat restoration.”
Johnson is quoted in advance reports on the KHSA signing ceremony from the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sam Davidson is California Communications Director for Trout Unlimited. Lower photo: Brian Johnson just below Iron Gate Dam, Klamath River.