In ‘momentous’ act, regulators approve demolition of four Klamath River dams
A new federal regulator approved the first of three demolition orders this summer to remove four major dams along the Klamath River. The Klamath Falls Dam Removal Plan (KFR), filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation in April, would remove the main dams on the Klamath River to prevent water diversion below the dams, which could flood the lower Klamath Basin. The Bureau’s Bureau of Reclamation, through a contract with the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2300, the Washington state union that represents the dam’s current employees, will provide labor and supervision. The dam removal has been in the planning stage for years, with an environmental impact statement completed in 2004.
But this summer, the agency ordered the removal of two of the four dams to protect water supply and wildlife in the lower Klamath Basin. The agency also instructed contractors to remove a third dam in a separate order this fall. A fourth dam will remain in place with a planned replacement.
The KFR, filed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in April, calls for the removal of all four dams in the Klamath Basin watershed as well as a dam on the Middle Fork Klamath River near the community of Hwy. 1013. The proposed plan includes the immediate removal of all four dams along the Lower Klamath River, the Upper Klamath River, and any dams that would be constructed in this watershed over the next five years.
The plan would remove the Upper Klamath River’s existing dams and would construct a replacement dam at Klamath Falls that could serve as a new power plant. The plan also calls for the construction of a series of hydroelectric plants on tributaries to the Klamath River in the Klamath Lake Basin.
In a notice filed with the U.S. Forest Service on July 31 (PDF), the bureau said that it is “conducting a review of the effectiveness” of the Klamath Falls Dam Removal Plan. The agency said that it has no formal comment on the plan at this time.
In addition to the KFR, the bureau said it has filed three other dam removal plans that are in “preliminary stages…. These are a