The federal process for removing four hydroelectric dams in the Klamath Basin advanced Tuesday with the release of draft report from the U.S. Department of Interior indicating benefits such as salmon recovery, more dependable irrigation water deliveries and job creation could outweigh disadvantages of removing the dams, including the projected $291 million cost, lost electrical production and increased flooding risks.
The report, titled the “Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior: An Assessment of Science and Technical Information,” represents two years of scientific and technical studies conducted for Department of Interior to assess the positive and negative effects of removing the J.C Boyle Dam, COPCO 1 and COPCO 2 dams, and the Iron Gate hydroelectric dams, and transferring the non-hydro Keno Dam to the Department of Interior, according to reports from the department.
The department issued a second report Tuesday called the “Klamath River Restoration Nonuse Value Survey Final Report,” which looks at tribal and economic issues.
“The science and analyses presented in these reports are vital to making an informed and sound decision,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a press statement.
Anticipated benefits of dam removal outlined in the reports include recovery of threatened or endangered salmon, and improved habitat for trout and other fish in the basin, the creation of 1,400 construction jobs for one year to tear down the downs and the prospect of adding 4,600 long-term jobs restoring the watershed, habitat and related work.
The report summaries conclude that those benefits outweigh the increased risk of flooding that may require relocation of at least six residences, the loss of power production and the $291 million cost of removing the four dams.
In addition to the Department of the Interior’s process for dam removal, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., have also introduced a bill authorizing the department to tear down the dams.
Public comment on the dam removal draft report opened Tuesday and must be submitted to the Department of Interior by Feb. 5, to be considered by Salazar. He is scheduled to make a recommendation supporting or opposing removal of the four dams by March 31, as required under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Once Salazar makes a recommendation, the governors of Oregon and California will have 60 days to accept or reject Salazar’s recommendation.
“As we work toward strengthening the health and economic prosperity of all that depends on the Klamath — including our watersheds, fisheries, and forests — I encourage members of the public to offer their input on this draft overview report and perspectives on the opportunity that lies ahead,” Salazar said in the press release.
Full copies of the new reports and past studies on the dam removal plans are available online at www.KlamathRestoration.gov