Klamath Dams: Progress or Setback?

Four dams are slated to be removed on the Klamath River, re-establishing hundreds of miles of habitat to anadromous fish. The long-negotiated plan was to transfer ownership of the dams from PacificCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), a non-profit formed exclusively to oversee removal. Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved transfer of ownership but with the stipulation that PacificCorp remain a co-licensee. I listened to the FERC meeting, read their ruling, and was enthused by FERC’s desire to have the dams removed. I also understand their caution to ensure sufficient funding is available to complete removal once started.

After listening to the FERC meeting, reading their order, and talking to people involved in the process, I took the ruling as progress towards a worthy goal. The KRRC is well-funded to complete dam removal and is ready to start work early next year.

Articles like this one, however, make it clear that PacificCorp considered full ownership transfer to be a “bedrock” principal of the agreement. So, we will have to see what happens next. I remain optimistic, however, as this entire process started when FERC required fish passage at the dams as part of license renewal. The cost of providing passage was estimated to prohibitive compared to future profits or the cost of dam removal. That problem has not changed, so I would anticipate PacificCorp attempting to renegotiate some aspects of the agreement but ultimately moving forward.

Time will tell. FERC could have denied the entire project, so I continue to believe that progress was made.