Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – March 16, 2019 –

I see by the reporting in the Triplicate and upon reviewing the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting that there is much missing from the rush to remove the dams on the Klamath River, and much more to be concerned about beyond silt issues and their effect on the harbor.  I don’t suppose anyone has considered the possibility that the removal of the dams will not change anything about improvement of the fish populations returning to the Klamath River.  I also suspect little thought has been given to the prospect that dam removal may create far more harm than any restoration in the river for many years to come.

There isn’t in much question that dam removal from the Obama administration’s Department of the Interior under then Secretary Ken Salazar was a priority primarily due to heavy political pressure brought by environmentalist forces who often do not bear the “dollar” fallout of their activities.  When Secretary Salazar was tasked with the prospect of the removal of the dams on the Klamath River, instructions given to the government scientists who wrote the reports, was not to include any information that cast doubt on that end or that restoration would not be successful.

Environmental activists no longer accepted the standard practice of installing fish ladders as a means of habitat restoration, but rather insisted on complete dam removal.

Since that time, the Klamath dam removal process has moved forward largely unimpeded, inspite of the fact that in many other instances of dam removal, the restorative predictions did not measure up and local populations dealt with a variety of unintended consequences.   What is largely ignored by our local representatives is, that in 2011, the Department of the Interior had recently hired a highly respected scientist as their Science Advisor and Science Integrity Officer who was tasked with reviewing the department’s work surrounding Klamath River Dam Removal.  That scientist, Dr. Paul Houser, deemed the environmental
impact report as unacceptable, flawed, biased towards dam removal, lacking in sufficient peer reviewed science, and wildly speculative. Many of the recently displayed “facts” that are meant to sway our local representatives are based on those reports.  In addition to Dr. Houser’s findings, a Klamath River Experts Panel found that while given the time they had to review the environmental reports, a much more cautious approach should be taken to the predicted 80% restoration figure.  The KREP was much more comfortable with at most a 22% figure which would barely cover the loss of the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery’s 17% contribution to the river’s salmon population.  In other words, the removal of the dams would result in no, to an insignificant amount of restoration and would likely cause more damage to the local economy rather than any improvement.

There are a number of other factors to be considered, chief among them is that if the dams are to be removed rather than fish ladders installed, it is very possible that environmental forces will call for human aided restoration when natural restoration fails to come about. In that case, we locally, could be looking at years of little to no improvement of the economy, loss of millions of dollars in that economy, and hundreds of millions of dollars in human restoration programs in vain attempts to justify the dam removal.

Very little close examination of any other causes for the decline of fish populations other than the hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River has been considered.  Historic declines of cod populations on the eastern coasts of the United States and Canada could very likely beinstructive.  In addition, an examination of the decline of salmon and other fish populations on the west coasts of the United States and Canada would be another valuable resource.  Salmon are not the only specie of fish that has shown marked declines.

Literally no consideration has been given to the fact that two other dams on the Upper Klamath will be allowed to remain.  Both Dr. Houser and the KREP state that only with significant water quality improvement can natural restoration be even possible, something highly unlike to occur from dam removal alone.

As with so many environmental findings of late, there is so much more work to be done, hopefully without activism and political pressure.  At this point all that can be concluded is that there are a wide range of outcomes for restoration on the Klamath River.  It would be truly unfortunate if we were to be pressured by the most optimistic outcome and be forced to lived with the least.


10 thoughts on “Removal of the dams on the Klamath RIver”
  1. Any dam removal will open up more miles upstream for fish to spawn, creating more space for more juvenile fish to be raised. The Harbor always needs dredged anyways, so do your job and have it dredged more. More fish for everyone, on the river and in the harbor.

  2. Here it is the 11th hour for the removal of the dams. Nobody gave two shits about it two years ago when there was discussion and approval, but now, everyone is coming out of the woodworks. The Harbor, is especially screaming about the “potential” bombardment of silt. Where were the harbor folks during the meetings voicing their concerns? Probably paying off the $30,000 shark guy/consultant to build their tsunami center in the tsunami zone. I don’t know.

    I attended the meetings held in Klamath. I heard of the concerns and back then it was determined there would be no fishing for 5 years following the removal of the dams. No one complained then. Why? and why now. Klamath River is not the only fishing spot.

    If you want to get an accurate idea of the outcome of removing the dams let us look to the North where just a few short years ago the Rogue River removed their dams.

    The worse thing that happened that was completely visual is the fine folks who lived along the Rogue River had more of a yard and less doc for their fine boats. Never heard anyone complain of the fishing. The river is healthy today.

    It is too late in the game to stop an already approved project. You should have gone to the meetings long ago and spoke your voice then. Lastly, this is the natives river not the proverbial white fisherman river. it is their say you all had an opportunity and blew it. get over it.

    1. Nice to see Linda Sutter hasn’t lost her usual venom. Infrastructure such as a dam is a valuable resource that can be turned into hydro-electric in the future, and of course there is the ability to control water flow. Any issues the dam created could easily be mitigated, but haven’t been. As far as throwing the racial stuff in there, pure class as always.

      1. You seem to be ignorant to the topic. These dams were built for and still produce electricity, And their ability to control water has been proven false. Do you know about the flood in 1964 that wiped the town of Klamath of the map. These and other dams on the Klamath river were supposed to prevent flooding. And as far as the issues these dams have created, Pacific corp. who own the dams already said it would cost more to install fish ladders than it would be to tear them down.

        1. Apparently, you have not kept up with the KRRC’s reasons for dam removal. According to Matt Cox, KRRC’s director of communications, the Klamath River dams to be removed were never meant for flood control or to prevent flooding. As we have seen recently in Nebraska, even dams meant to prevent flooding are not always up to the task. It should be noted; however, Klamath has not been flooded since that time.
          Pacific Power may say that the cost to retrofit the dams will cost more than removal, but that does not appear to be the case. The Triplicate has written several times about the subject and has clearly stated at least twice in articles that fish ladders and a retrofit would cost $300 million according to Pacific Power. Dam removal comes in at $398 million, nearly $100 million more than a retrofit. Unless you don’t believe either the Triplicate or Pacific Power, I can’t help you.
          The fact that Pacific Power does not wish to retrofit the dams is a factor that should not force the public to spend the additional $100 million for what has every likelihood of being a phantom restoration project. The reference to the restoration on the Rogue River from dam removal is that after eleven years, they are still waiting and could be waiting for some time.
          Matt Cox has implied that the retrofit could cost much more than $300 million, but the dam removal could also accrue greater expense than currently is available. Pacific Power might as a corporation with stockholders be able to accomplish the retrofit at near the estimated figure. I would not expect that out of an artificial entity funded to some extent with public money. People who spend public money do not exactly have a very good track record with the public trust.
          When dam removals on other rivers have failed to produce natural restoration the typical response by the environmental crowd has been the call for further dam removal if possible, at more expense or hundreds of millions of dollars in human led intervention projects for “restoration” which once again did not reveal the actual culprits. It did ; however, delay the ultimate resolution of the problem for years.

          1. Apparently you have not kept up with the history of Klamath.That’s because they constructed a levee around the Glen, And moved the town across the 101 to higher ground that does not flood.

          2. I get your point, It is very obvious. Who do you think will eventually end up paying for the retrofit?, The rate payers. This battle has been going on for over a decade now, Not just the last 2 years. It wasn’t until congress let this bill die on the floor that KRRC was formed.

            1. Actually, you missed my point again. Dam retrofit is simply one of six possible outcomes in the controversy. Other than no action at all, it is the cheapest for all involved. Frankly I am surprised that the State has not been sued for their commitment of $250 million to the KRRC for dam removal. Seems the voters passed that bond to improve their water situation not diminish it.
              As far as the length of the water battles, you really need to read things more carefully. I have gone over all the ground in editorials in the Triplicate and the Crescent City Times. I have also spent extended time on my Sunday Radio Program detailing the ins and outs all the way back to the construction of the first dam in 1918 by the California Oregon Power Corporation. The previous radio programs continue to be available in KFUG’s podcast library for everyone’s listening pleasure.
              There is considerable complexity in the whole of the science surrounding the decline of the Salmon populations that utilize the Klamath River for spawning. The KRRC has barely scratched the surface regarding the impact that the dams might have on the potential restoration of those populations. As a matter of fact, there are literally dozens of scholarly studies, each of which outlines a potential cause for the decline of the Salmon populations other than the dams on the Klamath River. Neither the recent 1801 page State review or the previous Bureau of Reclamation studies consider much of anything beyond dam removal. Since the Bureau’s studies were rather thoroughly panned by the Department of the Interior’s Science Advisor and Science Integrity Officer as wildly speculative among other colorful terms and the State’s findings rely heavily on that “science”, it would seem prudent to me, at least, that the KRRC should expand their method of scientific discovery to include the multitude of possible issues of salmon population decline before spending $450 million dollars on what may very likely be a fruitless endeavor. I can think of a couple of other things, if it were possible, that strike me as a much more worthwhile place to spend that kind of money, other than on something that could very well have a very marginal impact on river restoration.

    2. Such passion Linda. If I didn’t know better I would swear that Matt Cox was slipping you a few bucks to shill for the dam removal folks. Just so you know, there has been a continuous effort to thwart dam removal since Pacific Power magically was able to circumvent congress in 2015. It didn’t just stop a couple of years ago. Currently the non profit formed to stop dam removal has a law suit in federal court winding its way through the system which could bring the whole thing back into the legislative arena.
      For me, it doesn’t really matter to me what you believe about silt issues or the on going circus at the harbor. I also could care less about about the loss of fishing for five years because I believe any loss to the Native Americans was to be mitigated, hence; they really didn’t care to complain.
      As far as the picture you have portrayed about the Rogue River, that’s where I beg to differ. First of all it had been ten years since the first Rogue River dam was removed. Over the next couple of years, a further seven dams were removed at a cost of $20 million. Since that time, the returning salmon population of the Rogue River has DECLINED to about 60% of its 2008 returns according to Oregon’s Department of Fish and Game. Further more there is concern that there may not be significant population increase for twenty years or more. As such there is talk about significant and expensive human led intervention.
      Reports primarily in the media by Commercial ocean fisherman and guides on the river of massive returns are meant to convince the rubes to keep coming. The science is pretty clearly pointing to problems other than the dams for the huge decline in fish populations of all kinds including salmon on the West Coast.
      My concern is this; we spend $450 million to remove four dams, get very little restoration and an insignificant increase in fish population for a lengthy period of time at a huge economic loss. All the while waiting for the situation to improve, without considering it may be something other than the dams.
      Having been a commercial salmon fisherman in the eighties, I had the personal experience of seeing the salmon population take a decidedly sharp decline following a period where the federal government allowed factory fishing just outside the twelve mile limit. While I didn’t continue on as a commercial fisherman in the nineties, friends who did noticed continued declines until the president day.
      Furthermore, neither of the two EIRs seem to indicate that there is science to support any kind of restoration if the returning salmon populations do not exist. This is something that will not simply and magically happen. What is clear about the EIRs is that NO CONSIDERATION what so ever was given to the prospect that the dams played little or no part in population decline. We can thank the Obama Department of the Interior for that tiny over site. The recent EIR draws heavily on the 2006-2010 reports where the same ommisions exist.
      If you look beyond the Rogue River experience where other dams were removed similar lack of restoration has occurred, but you won’t find many environmentalists talking about it. Even those dams that have diversions and fish ladders which allowed access to the river above the dams (like the Rogue River) are not showing significant restoration a decade after dam removal.
      Much of the reasoning behind dam removal comes from a “return to nature and eliminate the nasty hand of human kind” from the planet, rather than any real science behind evils of man. It is unfortunate because it has had the tendency to take science down a great an increasing number of dead ends at great cost.
      Coming from a science background,my concern is that we are putting ALL of our eggs in one basket and if dam removal doesn’t produce the eggs, any restoration on the Klamath could be decades away if it ever happens. Tunnel vision is not good science.
      As far as opening up more river by dam removal only gets you so far. If you don’t have the fish to populate the additional water, you aren’t getting any more fish to spawn and a corresponding increase the population. Already the returning salmon are so few, that it may require economic deprivation for years to come. Dam removal is not a magic bullet and may be pointless.
      And last but not least, you may wish to reconsider that last paragraph. I am quite sure that Native Americans are more than willing to share the River, as long as its to the benefit of all involved! Even if you aren’t.

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