Historic deal revives plan for largest US dam demolition

An agreement announced Tuesday paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a project that promises to reopen hundreds of miles of waterway along the Oregon-California border to salmon that are critical to tribes but have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years.

Posted: Nov 17, 2020 3:03 PM
Updated: Nov 17, 2020 3:49 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A new agreement paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history to try to save salmon that are critical to tribes and have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years.

If the deal announced Tuesday goes forward, it would revive plans to remove four massive hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River along the Oregon-California border, emptying giant reservoirs and reopening potential fish habitat that’s been blocked for more than a century.

The new plan makes Oregon and California equal partners in the demolition with a nonprofit entity, easing concerns from regulators. It still must be approved by the U.S. government.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa issued the following statement after California Governor Gavin Newson, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Karuk and Yurok Tribal Leaders, and PacifiCorp announced that they will be moving forward with the removal of four Klamath River Dams.

“California’s quest to remove these perfectly good dams continues," said LaMalfa in a statement. "Now the taxpayers of California and Oregon will be on the hook due to this agreement to pick up a multi-billion dollar expense for the cost and liability of the inevitable environmental damage this project will cause. Removing these dams will do nothing to help fish but will destroy water storage needed for firefighting and will bankrupt Siskiyou County.

“Let’s face it, the State of California has a terrible history of managing dams and completing large projects. After the Oroville Dam spillway crisis in 2017, the grossly expensive Bay Bridge project, and the failed High Speed Rail, it would be foolish to assume California can well-manage projects of significant scope. Removing these dams will be difficult and will inevitably cause more harm than good to ratepayers, taxpayers, and the fish the state is claiming to protect.

“The dams themselves are a benefit to our overloaded power grid and the local area economy. Especially in a year where power is a precious commodity and in short supply at times, removing this reliable, renewable, and cost-effective energy source will harm Basin-area residents, Oregon ratepayers, and our already stretched state grid.”

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