The World’s Largest-Ever Dam Removal Project Kicks Off in Northern California

Work has officially begun on the world’s largest-ever dam-removal project, which also marks the biggest salmon restoration project to date. The Lower Klamath Hydropower Project comprises four dams, and their removal will help restore 38 miles of upstream habitat to a more natural state. The project, authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), began with construction work on March 10 to provide access for heavy equipment.

The smallest of the four dams, Copco No. 2, will be demolished first, with work starting in June and continuing through September. The drawdown of reservoirs behind the other three dams (J.C. Boyle, Iron Gate, and Copco No. 1) will begin in January 2024. The controlled release of water will allow the reservoirs to be emptied without causing flooding. An estimated five to seven million cubic yards of sediment will be released, roughly equivalent to the annual sediment transport of the Klamath River.

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) has committed to long-term monitoring and is prepared to address any issues resulting from sediment deposition. After the reservoirs are emptied, the river will be redirected using diversion tunnels, allowing dam infrastructure to be removed from a dry river channel. By the end of 2024, all four dams will be removed, and the Klamath River will be restored to a free-flowing condition.

The restoration work, managed by Texas-based firm RES (Resource Environmental Solutions), will involve stabilizing reservoir sediment through the reestablishment of native vegetation and creating high-quality habitat for returning salmon. In collaboration with the Karuk and Yurok tribes, RES has collected around 17 billion native seeds from the Klamath Basin to be used for sediment stabilization following dam removal. These seeds will form the foundation for regrowth of native vegetation in the area.

In addition to the main Klamath River, restoration work will focus on priority tributaries. Banks will be graded, and wood and rock habitat features will be installed to collect spawning gravels. Approximately 400 miles of fish habitat, including the main stem Klamath, creeks, and tributaries, will be restored as a result of dam removal.

Wendy Ferris, a KRRC board member appointed by the Karuk Tribe, expressed the deep connection local tribes have with the Klamath River Basin and the significance of restoring the river ecosystem for them. The project represents the first phase of bringing back their religion to a healthy state, living in balance with the land and maintaining a healthy community.

This monumental project, which has taken decades to achieve, will help restore a vital ecosystem and support the cultural and spiritual well-being of the local tribes who have lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

23 Comments

  1. Does this project impact water resources for humans? With years of drought I believe this is a valid concern. Thank you for your time and attention

    1. I think the health of the land and the salmon is more important to saving the environment right now. In B.C. Canada we have water restrictions and metered water, so we pay by how much we use. In Surrey, with over 500,000 people our water conservation has helped enormously, and we don’t have the water problems you have in California! Time to start cutting back on water usage, which is the best way to deal with any water problems. We can only water on 2 days a week, I have 3 water barrels, so I don’t have to water by tap until the middle of summer! Every little bit helps.

    2. You are about 20 years too late. This has been studied over and over and over. Look up the history if you’re really interested

  2. Absolutely the stupidest idea that politicians have ever had, under this leadership America is completely doomed. Wait and see.

  3. I think it all bull shit what are you going to do when we have Fires up in that area let it burn everyone’s houses down so they have to start all over in there lives

  4. After this is completed you will get to see why these dams were installed in the first place. Dams were built to stop floods. Look back at Porterville CA and what happened years ago that wiped out a hole town.

  5. Native American people don’t live off the land anymore is the problem go look in there freezer and see they are eating the same thing everyone else is garbage Walmart food salmon don’t run that part of the river because they never did well not in a very long time and if you want salmon to run the river that far up then your going to have to use farm grown fish because natural salmon return to where they were born and how many people have to suffer from the impact of emptying the lakes and destroying 4 natural clean energy producing damns that create hydroelectric energy for approximately 78000 homes this is all a scam and to all my native friends when was the last time you benefited when the government was involved you are being played again think about it elders you should know better the government has got you all fooled ask what are they really getting out of it I know it feels like you are winning the fight that you have fought for so long but really it’s the government have you forgotten about the past if so you deserve to repeat it

  6. So how many generations of salmon have not gone all the way to the end of these rivers since these dams were built?
    Dozens, I’ll bet. So why would any new salmon know to go there? Don’t think they would.
    And it won’t be pretty downstream when the uncontrolled rivers flood during similar wet years like we have now.

  7. What happens when they get thirsty? Where has common sense gone in this State? we are going to hell in a hand basket!

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