Latest: Klamath dams to come down

A deal that would have supplied water to irrigators and tribes fell apart.

  • Copco I Dam and powerhouse, one of the four dams that will be removed.


A water war in the early 2000s in Oregon’s Klamath River Basin brought bitter feelings, fallowed fields and devastating fish die-offs. After decade-long negotiations, more than 40 stakeholders signed three agreements in 2010 that would have provided minimum flows for irrigators and wildlife refuges, assured tribal water rights — and removed four geriatric dams, restoring salmon runs and improving water quality. In late 2015, though, Congress let the agreements’ cornerstone expire, leaving the Klamath’s future uncertain (“Hope fades for Klamath River accords,” HCN, 2/2/16).

On Feb. 2, the Interior Department announced that despite the congressional inaction that sank the Klamath Agreements, the four Lower Klamath River dams will be removed through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process, which found that the cost of retrofitting far exceeded decommissioning. The removal (set for 2021) will occur independently of the other deals, so stakeholders still have to figure out how to revive them.

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