June 17, 2021
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) applauded the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decision today to allow the Klamath River dam removal project to go forward, clearing the way for a massive effort to restore struggling salmon runs vital for tribal and coastal communities.
FERC approved PacifiCorp, the non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation, and the states of California and Oregon’s application to transfer the utility’s hydropower license to the nonprofit organization for surrender. The decommissioning and removal of PacifiCorp’s four dams will open 420 miles of salmon spawning habitat, and dramatically improve water quality and temperature conditions on the Klamath River that cause and increase disease in fish.
“The tribes and stakeholders of the Klamath River basin have worked diligently for years to restore one of the West’s most important watersheds, and now FERC has moved to make this a reality,” Rep. Huffman said. “The partnerships between the states, the tribes, the utility, and many others are ringing in a new era that recognizes the injustices of the past and invests in the future.”
The four dams on the Klamath River produce a marginal amount of electricity, and their reservoirs superheat water and experience dangerous algal blooms every summer. They provide no flood control or water supply. Years of study show that removal of the dams are in the public interest and will lead to significantly better conditions on the river.
“Today’s order confirms that the Renewal Corporation has the ability, financially and otherwise, to undertake dam removal, and with the states, as co-licensees, the necessary legal and technical expertise required for such a huge undertaking,” FERC wrote in announcing the decision. “The surrender application is still pending before the Commission and is awaiting further environmental review as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Commission will continue to engage with all parties and stakeholders to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the surrender proceeding.”
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week filed a letter with FERC urging the commission to approve the application for transfer. “Today we have an incredible opportunity to restore this magnificent river, rewrite a painful chapter in our history, and do so in a manner that protects the many interests in the basin,” Secretary Haaland wrote.
The dam removal is consistent with the Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement signed in 2010 and amended in 2016 by federal agencies, the states of Oregon and California, the Yurok and Karuk tribes, Humboldt County, and conservation organizations.
Rep. Huffman has been an active partner in the efforts to remove the Klamath River dams. Following signs in July 2020 that PacifiCorp may walk back its commitment to dam removal, Rep. Huffman, Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, held a public forum to examine the terrible impacts the dams have had on salmon and downstream water quality. In September of that year, he successfully offered an amendment to the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, which was approved by the House, to safeguard Tribal communities against further harm to the Klamath River and its ecosystem caused by PacifiCorp’s delays.
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