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, will 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 will significantly improve water quality. American Whitewater’s successfully secured provisions to maintain river access in the months leading up to dam removal, advocated for retention of publicly accessible real-time flow information, and ensured hydropower operations provided and whitewater opportunities in advance of dam removal. In addition to these recreational interests, we also represented our interest in the health of salmon and steelhead populations of the Klamath River.
The Klamath River has attempted to meet the needs of multiple interests including but not limited to recreation, power generation, fish and wildlife, cultural, municipal water supply, and agriculture. The competing interests warranted 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 strongly supported 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 impacts historic opportunities for whitewater recreation but dam removal opens up new opportunities and improves overall health of the river. As part of a the dam removal project, American Whitewater has secured 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 August 2023)
On November 17th, 2022 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a formal order approving surrender of the license for the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project and Removal of Project facilities. This was the last major regulatory step that will now allow dam removal to proceed.
This order is consistent with the previously issued (June 17th, 2021) order of transfer of the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation and the states of Oregon and California and the published schedule for environmental review as follows:
Major Milestone: Target Date
Scoping Meetings: July 2021
Scoping Comments of American Whitewater, Submitted August 19, 2021
Draft EIS: Issued February 25, 2022
Draft EIS Comments of American Whitewater, Submitted April 18, 2022
Final EIS and Completion of Environmental Review: Issued August 26, 2022
Final Decision: Issued November 17, 2022
Ownership of the dams was transferred from PacifiCorp to Klamath River Renewal Corporation and the states of Oregon and California in December 2022. Project mobilization got underway early in 2023. Removal of Copco 2 Dam began in June 2023. As this work is completed, trees that have grown up in the active river channel, an unnatural condition due to the Wards Canyon segment of the river being dewatered for the past century, will also be removed. In addition rock fall at Sidecast Slide in the Big Bend Reach, an unnatural feature in the river that has impeded fish passage and is a hazard to navigation resulting from blast rock from construction of the power canal, will be addressed. Regarding the flows rates from the existing JC Boyle Powerhouse that provide flows for Hells Corner, the Bureau of Reclamation dictates the flows and hydropower project regulates 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 9/5/2023, when flows will be managed to allow for dam removal. The summer of 2023 will thus be the last summer to fully experience Hells Corner with elevated hydropower releases in mid-summer. The FERC Order stipulates that the Klamath River Renewal Corporation must consult with American Whitewater and outfitters to schedule construction activities and access restrictions to minimize adverse effects on whitewater boaters.
The removal of J.C. Boyle Dam, Copco 1, and Iron Gate Dams will occur in 2024 with a free-flowing condition and fish passage restored by 10/1/2024. During this time we anticipate construction of facilities to access the restored river will occur with access sites at Pioneer Park (near the Highway 66 Bridge), Moonshine Falls (near the present site of J.C. Boyle Dam), Copco Valley (in the current footprint of Wards Canyon upstream of the. entrance to Wards Canyon), and Iron Gate (on river right on the footprint of the current administrative facilities associated with the hydroelectric project). American Whitewater served in a leadership capacity to identify appropriate sites for the public to access and experience a restored river. All dam removal activities will be completed by 12/31/2024. Restoration would start during drawdown (provided safe access) and will continue through 2025. Our goal is for the public to be able to experience a restored river in 2025.
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).