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OR, CA Governors Agree to Remove Klamath River Dams

The Klamath River flows through southern Oregon and northern California. (Tami Heilemann/Dept. of the Interior)
The Klamath River flows through southern Oregon and northern California. (Tami Heilemann/Dept. of the Interior)
April 7, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D)and California Governor Jerry Brown (D) met at an event along the Klamath River Wednesday to agree to remove four dams from the river. They were joined by Native American tribal leaders, the electric utility PacifiCorp, and other groups interested in restoring the Klamath River to its natural state.

Brian Johnson, California director for Trout Unlimited, represents a national group seeking the removal of the dams in order to improve fishing in the region.

"The Klamath River is already one of the great steelhead rivers in the country, and this is the biggest single thing that can be done to make steelhead fishing better," he said.

Under the agreement, four older hydroelectric dams that provide very little power would be removed starting in 2020. Without the dams, water quality on the Klamath is expected to improve, and salmon habitats will be restored. Three Native American tribes rely on salmon in the river for sustenance.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also was present for the signing of the agreement. Jewell and the states are working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in order to bypass Congress, which refused to sign on to the agreement last year. PacifiCorp will also be a big player in removal of the dams.

Johnson said the company has weighed the costs and determined removing them is the best option.

"The high cost of re-licensing the dams and trying to retrofit them to meet modern standards would be worse, both in terms of risk to their customers and cost," he added.

PacifiCorp has capped the price of dam removal for its customers at $200 million, and the State of California is expected to pay the remaining balance of the $450 million project. The public utility commissions of both Oregon and California have agreed dam removal is the best option for PacifiCorp customers.

The full agreement can be found online here.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR