A series of four dams on the Klamath River (originally licensed as FERC P-2082 and then as FERC P-14803) operated by PacifiCorp has devastated salmon populations on what was one of the nation's most productive salmon rivers. These dams which produce very little power, relative to their environmental impacts, have long been candidates for removal.
Removing the dams, an action American Whitewater supports, would open up opportunities for new day trips on sections of river that are currently inundated by reservoirs or dewatered by hydropower operations, while creating an opportunity for a multi-day whitewater trip on the Klamath River. In addition, the dam removal would significantly improve water quality. Prior to dam removal, American Whitewater’s objectives are to maintain river access, retain publicly accessible real-time flow information, ensure hydropower operations provide and improve whitewater opportunities in respective reaches compatible with the physical and biotic integrity and resource goals of those reaches, and ensure a proper balance of hydropower and non-hydropower needs. In addition to these recreational interests, we also have a significant interest in the health of salmon and steelhead populations of the Klamath River.
The Klamath River currently meets the needs of multiple interests including but not limited to recreation, power generation, fish and wildlife, cultural, municipal water supply, and agriculture. These potentially competing interests warrant systematic evaluation of each facility individually, the Project holistically, and the river on a local, regional and global scale, to determine the proper balance of water allocation and Project alternatives for respective uses in accordance with the best interests of society. As active participants in this dialogue over the past two decades, American Whitewater supports dam removal of J.C. Boyle Dam, Copco 1 Dam, Copco 2 Dam, and Iron Gate Dam as the preferred action to restore the river. The loss of enhanced mid-day summer flows on the Hell's Corner reach will have an impact on existing opportunities on whitewater recreation but dam removal will open up new opportunities and improve overall health of the river. As part of a the dam removal project, American Whitewater will seek appropriate mitigation to ensure the public has the opportunity to experience and enjoy a restored river through development of river access and recreational infrastructure that respects fishery resources and cultural sites.
Anticipated Schedule (as of February 2022)
On June 17th, 2021 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved transfer of the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation and the states of Oregon and California. The Commission also published a schedule for environmental review as follows:
Major Milestone: Target Date
Scoping Meetings: July 2021
Scoping Comments: Due August 19, 2021 (Comments of American Whitewater)
Draft EIS: Issued February 25, 2022
Draft EIS: Comments Due April 18, 2022
Final EIS: Issued September 2022
Following publication of the Final EIS the Commission will need to make a final decision and that decision is subject to challenge by any parties in the proceeding. Assuming no significant administrative or legal challenges occur, we anticipate that reservoir drawdown would begin January 1, 2024 and the major dam removals will be completed by October 1, 2024 for fish passage. All dam removal activities would be completed by 12/31/2024. At Copco I, drawdown would start on October 1, 2023 only to the bottom elevation of the existing head gates. Restoration would start during drawdown (provided safe access) and will continue through 2025.
Regarding the flows rates from the existing JC Boyle Powerhouse, the Bureau of Reclamation dictates the flows and PacifiCorp operates the actual release of water. The flows are based on storm events, time of year, and power generation. JC Boyle dam operations are anticipated to be unchanged until 1/1/2024, when drawdown starts.
A Sample of American Whitewater Filings
American Whitewater was initially engaged in the relicensing of the hydropower projects on the Klamath River, an effort that transitioned to a dam removal campaign through the leadership of Tribes and our conservation partners. Through the process we have filed several comments on the docket (P-2082 and P-14803).