Dam removal along Klamath River moves forward with agreement
KLAMATH, Calif. - A historic agreement to remove dams along the upper Klamath River was signed Wednesday in a event that was attended by various federal, state and tribal stakeholders.
Representatives included Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, California Governor, Jerry Brown, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Congressman Jared Huffman, and Karuk and Yurok tribal leaders.
The agreement will bring forth the largest river restoration and dam removal project in U.S. history. Three dams in California and one in Oregon will be removed.
All of the stakeholders signed an amendment to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). This means the process for dam removal will not need the involvement of Congress and can continue to go through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Pacificorp, the company that owns the dams, has agreed to transfer the dams to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, who will then take the necessary steps to decommission and remove the dams starting in 2020.
David Gensaw, vice-chair of the Yurok Tribe, said the dam removal would restore fish runs in the upper Klamath Basin and allow the salmon and steelhead trout to move upstream to their fisheries. Gensaw said the fish were an important part of tribal culture.
"Once those dams come down and those fish continue their journey and its going to provide salmon for all the tribes in the communities, all the people that depend on the fish like the Yurok Tribe has for thousands of years," he said.
Governor Jerry Brown said the dam removal was to right a past wrong.
"This is a good exercise of human kind correcting some of the mistakes that it has made in the past," he said.
Congressman Jared Huffman spoke out favorably about all sides working together to come to an agreement.
"This kind of a coalition and alliance and collaboration is very unique and I think it bodes very well as we go forward through the FERC process with a consensus dam removal proposed," Huffman said.
Not everyone supported the KHSA, as the Hoopa Valley Tribe did not sign the agreement. Tribal Chairman Ryan Jackson attended the event with other tribal members. He said more power should be given to tribes.
"We want to see a comprehensive package that addresses and protects tribal rights, and tribal sovereignty as well," Jackson said.