The Klamath Dam Removal
Either i think i've had enough coffee so we can get going welcome to another installment of resonant restoration. I'm your host waiting through and wrangling through the water and weeds. Wantonly resting on the wayside of ecological restoration and this was not filmed from a live studio audience. Sorry anyhow today. We're looking at a very large project. The take down of the klamath river dams. I can't emphasize enough the gravity and size of this project by the way my name is shawn and we are bringing you. This podcast from traditional territory. In humboldt county california it is paramount to understand how we interact with the land in our everyday life and our histories future is mixed in the past and the present. The goal of restoration is often to return conditions for european and where those reference conditions are entwined with indigenous land management practices. We have a survey up at the moment so we can start working on. We'll continue on making the show better. You can find it at our links tree at l. i. and k. t. r. dot e slash resident restoration all also be hosting a trivia night for the northwest chapter of the society for ecological restoration march twenty fourth or somewhere around there. Chapter has also started a webinar series on inclusion in ecological restoration. So you can visit their website to get more information on that. This episode is brought to you in part by the folks over. At native ecosystems native ecosystems incorporated is a full service firm based humboldt county california. They focused their work on the restoration of ecosystems and design and implementation projects that restore eagles system function providing critical habitat for flora fauna and humans. They provide assistance with all aspects of restoration projects from the design and planning phase all way through construction maintenance and monitoring their staff has experienced designing and implementing habitat restoration projects throughout california and the pacific northwest a specialized in repairing wetland oak woodland and grassland. They are biologist ecologist an ecological laborers native ecosystems is a california licensed contractor and certified ecological restoration practitioner. I have seen the work. They do not only. Are they professional. They truly care about what they do. It's time to look at what's blooming. The good old look at phonology so here and via instagram. because who doesn't get information there now now a lot of people so we have feted at his tongue. Humble bay wallflower. Trillium kirby yoshie i Pink flowering currant vaccinia ovum. Our staff list yuba poa annua which is annual bluegrass rat. Tail fescue if you want to provide a list of what's blooming in your neighborhood you can email us at resonant restoration at g. Mail dot com. Or if you just want to say hi say hi. Hey just remind you know ifs buts ands or what have us schedule your floor ristic surveys. Spring is bringing. and it's almost done sprung. Get your based on documentation and order. Do these things well in delineations critter reports If you're in the appropriate window whatever look for plants for critters. Don't skirt by without knowing what is out there. The flowers will appreciate it and so will i. I had a great conversation. jim root. Who is the president of the klamath river renewal corporation and but first. Let's look at some history behind the klamath so these dams have created substantial impact to the hookah karuk klamath and europe communities the dams are planned for removal and those include top co one cop co two iron gate and jc boil. Jc boy is in oregon and other ones are in california. These are all hydroelectric facilities. There are under the ownership pacific core. The dam removal would be the largest dam removal project in the world. But let's back up a bit or a lot or a little and a lot as rewind the setting in a trajectory reference restoration. Time machine thing. So what led to where we are by eighteen. Fifty five settlers inundated the area due to the gold rush logging mining. You know all those types of activities by eighteen seventy it is said that the populations of indigenous people on the klamath had declined by seventy five percent in one thousand nine hundred six. The first canal relates the klamath irrigation. Project you start supplying farmers with irrigation water and farmland in the klamath basin. This led to about two hundred and twenty five thousand acres of rains. Land being transformed into active farmland copco one and copco two or constructed starting in nineteen eighteen. Jc boyle was constructed in nineteen fifty eight and iron gate in one thousand nine hundred sixty four by the thirties. Euro tribal members were banned from fishing and nineteen seventy eight. The supreme court of california upheld the ban on fishing one year later the supreme court upheld eight thousand nine hundred seventy four decision that the tribes were entitled to fifty percent of harvestable salmon. I imagine tensions were still high as there. Were no possible way that the same number of salmon would be seen anymore compared to those historical numbers considering the major losses the habitat and other impacts from nearby logging roadways development. And all the other things that go along with our ill-suited conception of progress over the last hundred years in two thousand two things get heated including the water temperature. We saw the largest salmon die off in the western united states and september. about thirty. Four thousand fish died and some counts. Estimated at over seventy thousand adult chinook salmon the cause according to a report by us fish and wildlife service and then it was due to water diversions to the climate basin during drought years. The high temperatures in the water created conditions leading to gill rot disease and these fish perish before they're able to reproduce so now that you have a little bit of background i encourage you to look the klamath up more now. Let's hear from jim to get started. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the k. R. c. a. Yes sean on jammed route. I'm serving as the app. President of the klamath river renewal corporation were five. Oh one c. Three nonprofit corporation formed by a large group of stakeholders the stakeholders negotiated a settlement regarding the klamath river. Hydro electric projects and that settlement will result in the demolition of the dams and the restoration of that reach of the river. Our corporation was formed to accomplish that project. And so how did you get. Started with the krc or the klamath. In general. i began quite early on. I have a cattle ranch in the wood river valley. The river is one of the upper tributaries of the klamath river. We in the year. Two thousand two we encountered a curtailment in irrigation for the whole basin of the clam and i felt like sites were so polarized regarding the the water shutdown that i wanted to become involved and see if i could use some of my rotary. Med skills to help negotiate a settlement in a fair result for all the stakeholders in those water issues shaun. I've been at this a long tac. Yeah i bet. That's great though to see develop this far. I'm sure there was a lot of interesting back and forth in conversations through the early stages anyway and probably continuing to this day. That is correct. The upper basin water issues. Although the work that i did help result in a subtle hint for water allocation settlement required. An act of congress to enact and congress failed to act on the settlement twitch. Everybody regrets now but with that we still advani issues in that upper basin area the Hydro settlement agreement remained alive though Number of us were appointed by principles stakeholders to sit on the board of that corporation. Back to your original question. I was appointed by governor kate brown to serve on the board. Oh great so okay. I'm kind of interested how. How does the political climate kind of factor into the process of the dam. Removal is their dc a lot of changes with presidential turnover. Or does that even matter. It's somewhat tangentially related. The federal government is one of the stakeholders in the subtle on through the app department of interior and commerce and so we have to pay attention to the politics at the national level. The actual activity in the federal government is principally centered with the federal energy regulatory commission which is an independent body and other than their commissioners being appointed by the president. We we really respond to the regulations of this independent commission. Right that makes sense recently. I've heard quite a few news stories about hurdles. You guys have gotten past including the question of liability. For as i understand it wanted pacificorp hold onto that liability and now it is going to be assumed by the k r c and a combination of the oregon and california. Is that correct. Yes yes that's correct. This came up via the transfer of the licenses for the dams which are currently held by pacific core. The corporation filed an application to have the license transferred to the k r c after lengthy consideration by for for fell that the single purpose nature of our corporation left some public liability and in order to make sure that the public was not in a liable position ordered that specific core remain on the license and says a co licensee. This ran counter to the subtle men agreement that pacific corps participated in and would not allow pacific court receive the benefit of what they negotiated for thusly. We had a very intense almost seven days. A week negotiation from august to november and ended up in a very positive position where pacific horror will remain on the license through these surrender period so pacific horror remains liable for regulatory risk. Then at surrender the states of california and oregon become co licensees with the climate through a renewal corporation and bear the liability of construction and restoration of the river. Nice with that out of the way. And i saw that. There was also recent approval by cal fire for water storage to alleviate concerns about Water availability on wildfire response. Yes we have twelve streams that were working on which supplement the deconstruction plan that we have filed with for the twelve work. Streams will be submitted to for a week from friday. One of those is a fire plan and it results from the fact that the four reservoirs behind the dams have been used by firefighters as water source. Those of course we'll be going away and we came up with a both a complex and comprehensive fire mitigation plan which the cal fire in california and oregon department of forestry and oregon have signed off on our fire management plan. That's great so. Are there any other major concerns or hurdles that are a you have to overcome at the moment or is it clear sailing from here. These twelve work streams address different issues that we need to finalize. The path for us is pretty direct and has been in -ticipant samples that we do have to file and gain permits or acceptance for will be are national historic preservation clan and that includes dealing with tribal cultural sites there two agencies that will have to sign off on on. That plan will be finally next friday. Our biological assessment and probably the biggest hurdle that we have remaining is firkh will initiate their national environmental policy. Act or niba crosses and this will go through all of the natural resource impacts that can occur. We'll be filing a recreation plan for the river. i think those are four of the twelve. It gives you kind of a feeling for what we need to do with i work. We have received our 401 clean water certifications from both hella -fornia and oregon. Those are two big hurdles that were over. And we're right on track with the army corps of engineers for our four zero four certification. Which is the removal and fill construction materials. Great s. you got some work ahead of you. But you're you're doing good. Sounds like we do. We want to empower preconstruction at tippety. Beginning april of two thousand twenty two about thirteen months from now and we kind of have to hit that day to be able to start. Try down of the reservoirs january one two thousand twenty three any stumbles there and we could miss a construction year. So there's plenty of pressure on us to keep our nose to the grindstone. Yeah i imagine so. Are there any restoration activities happening at the moment to kind of prepare for the take down of the dams getting tributaries bolstered or removal of culverts. Or anything like that. That activity a has not started yet. But we've got to get the surrender of the license accomplished before we can can really start into that work right. That makes sense with everything moving forward. I know that there's been quite a lot of involvement by tribal entities. Can you kind of tell us how they've been involved in the process. Yes the federally. Recognized tribes the euro cutter on the lower river and the climate tribe. On the upper river have really been in the forefront of the project. You could almost say this is their project than they brought the rest of us in to the project. They are stakeholders in the project. Saved the klamath which decided not to participate formally but have been very key partners for us are highly supportive of the project and will advance the restoration of the river beyond the fifteen mile reach. That will be working up. Do you know. If they're gonna be working alongside ari s with. I can't remember the name of that organization that outfit out of texas. A yes they will. They will be receiving subcontracts for work in our project area from razz they also will be receiving deconstruction subcontracts from the kiewit construction for. That's the general contractor that they're just part of local subcontractors it will be hired and contribute to the the local economy through this process. Have you guys been learning or looking at other removal projects like such as the l. a. Removal i know there is a lot of impacts that they saw where sediment eighty acres of beach into adrift sell at the mouth and there was impacts from flooding. How how have you approached looking at other projects to inform this one. We certainly have been looking apt at other dam removal projects each one their similarities and both the geography and the geology makes them unique. Also we've had engineering firms. Environmental engineering firm studying dam removal for the four years that i've been involved and the bureau of reclamation was initially charged with this project in two thousand ten i believe and we've relied on the the studies that they and their sister federal agencies have also been involved. Yeah i think you guys have done a great job of alleviating one of the main concerns. I see from a lot of dam removal projects and that is involving the stakeholders and especially tribes. So i wanna say good job for the work you guys are doing good will thank you. And i want to emphasize. The skill sets that the tribes have and have developed their restoration. Were key redid as good as it gets from what we've seen so were were very pleased to have them in fall in that aspect of the project and the tribes have built up considerable civil construction skill. And we're also pleased to be having them participate in the deconstruction ice. I also wanted to ask. What is the current stakeholder climate. More up river around the klamath area or up in oregon have people. Are people working together. Well there's still a lot of conversations happening. We enjoy considerable support in the oregon area. There's one damn the john. C boyle dam in oregon and we have worked closely primarily with klamath falls in klamath county. The board of commissioners have been supportive of the city is very supportive. We faced concerned by the irrigation community but have worked diligently with them and there's a more cautious support but they are supportive also. Let's get to hear. Can you remind me how many dams are on the klamath. I'll have to do some counting but one seven seven dams on the main stem of the klamath. So this project is aiming to take out as it two or three of them. Four four of the seven okay. Yeah that's that's better than two or three. the dams that remain are all in oregon. One is an irrigation dam. That is in the hands of the bureau of reclamation and they're charged with improving the fish ladder on the keno dam. The other two are right up at upper klamath lake and are the top. One is a water regulating dam and also has hydro capacity and then below at a small hitro. Damn those all have fish ladders or modernize scan nod invoked in our project. Okay that makes sense. Those two are called the link river dams. You got a name for them. I would like to talk about additional concerns that your audience may be interested in. Yeah go for it. You touched on flooding. And we've done extensive leave work on flood analysis and fled mitigation and what's at risk for flood. Damage are just a handful of residential properties. Just below the iron gate dam and we have a number of different plans depending upon what the residences want will move their houses and reestablish them on high ground will flood proof the houses quarter they sit or will purchase the residences for those who want to sell and remove a. And we're we're in very good contact and believe that our plan is is acceptable for the residences. There you touched on silt and management of sylvia's built up behind the dams. We've done extensive study of those deposits and the silts primarily vegetative matter. It's dead. Algae that has accumulated data material is highly mobile. And we're expecting during the draw down of the reservoirs that that so all will mobilize and will end up in the ocean done of steady of ocean currents and feel that it will disperse nice. Yeah i'm sure there's been a lot of studies and he had to look at a lot of potential outcomes. We sure have let me mention one more. And that is the the work we're doing on same in recovery removal of these dams will open about four hundred twenty miles of salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat with this of the largest river restoration project. Both in the country and in the world and were very excited to look forward to the recovery of the species right. Yeah that's an. It's an impressive projects. And i can only imagine how much money that has gone into it. Well significant that's for sure but we believe occurs well worthwhile. I recently listened to mike bell. Chick from the euro tribe talk about the dam removal process and one of the concerns that he touched on that people bring up is the renewable energy that is potentially being lost by the projects for as you have those hydroelectric dams being taken out but it sounds like pacific for the energy. Generated from those facilities is pretty negligible especially when compared to other potential projects. The power companies can do with wind and solar. Is there anything that you can mentioned on that. I think mike covered that pretty well. The pacific core has been investing in renewable power facilities for quite some time now and is committed to additional transition to renewable olds and they won. They clearly have mitigated the loss of power production from the four dams. They also point out that they're involved in a sixty eight power grid and there is some misconception that the power that's generated on the klamath is us right locally in that area and really not true. It's all part of a very large western power grid right. So i do have one other question for you and if you were to give advice to someone that has a diverse group of stakeholders and getting them all to the table. What what's the best thing you can say. I think what i would say is that we're living in a changing world and relooking at assets that are fifty to a hundred years old and we just have more modern ways to generate sustainable power and at the same time we can open up the river through a significant economic development benefit and i would just call for people who are skeptical about this to continue to attend the meetings that we hold and review materials that were producing those who remain skeptical. I would encourage to make their feelings. Heard and the real decision makers will be a federal energy regulatory commission and the commission holds open meetings from what we've seen seriously takes the input from all parties. And that's really your best way to try to accomplish. Any change that you think would be beneficial to the project. Perfect you guys at the krc have a newsletter that you can subscribe to on the website which gives good updates as there. Any other place can go to collect information. If are interested. We'll wrap certainly our best attempt to keep the public informed. And as i mentioned earlier when there are public hearings. That's a very formal way both to attend and be informed or to contribute to to the discussion right. A is there anything else you'd like to mention. Why still have you here. I think i've covered what i wanted to contribute. And i really appreciate to the questions you've asked and i hope between the two of us. We provided good information for your audience. I appreciate you reaching out to To achieve on this project trump. yes. I've been wanting to talk about the klamath dams for a while now and you guys were very responsive and i really appreciate it awesome. Well thank you. Oh i've enjoyed my time with you all the best and certainly tried to be present when this project starts it is going to happen. When did you say that you're hoping to start. The process the formal there'll be preconstruction activity but deconstruction start said january. One twenty twenty three. And you might find this interesting. We spend three months drawing the reservoirs down then we start the actual deconstruction which all four dams will come down at the same time and the deconstruction will occur over only a six month period. Oh wow it's gonna look like an ant hill that'd be impressive it will. How long do you guys anticipate other restoration activities happening and association. The restoration is a much lengthier. Time period were already started on yet. Were propagating Huge supply of native vegetation that will be used in the restoration but the the restoration activity will play out over about six years. I s that's gonna be interesting to see that as well. It sure will. Yep i. Well thank you again. It was great talking to you most. Welcome thanks you on the day. The music on this podcast was quiet. Fury by the music teller you can find him at the music teller dot com the best way to support. Our podcast is intel like-minded friend or colleague. Human interaction is important. You can also visit our web page at resonant restoration dot com and sign up for our newsletter and find links to our patriots page. You can also find us on social media such as instagram facebook and twitter so stay tuned for resonant restoration and thank you for listening.