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The Klamath Dams


While I grant that the politics of dams and fish are not the topic of greatest interest at a site focused on national politics, I want to highlight this really important news about the dams on the highly contested Klamath River in northern California. They are finally going to come down, a major victory for the tribes and for the salmon.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C., held a final vote Thursday to decide on the removal of four dams on the lower Klamath River. The vote, which follows the agency’s final environmental impact statement in late August, was unanimous in favor of removal.

After a grueling 20 years of environmental impact statements, scientific studies, negotiations with stakeholders and advocacy from the tribes and their conservationist allies — people who, as Hoopa Valley Tribe Chairman Joe Davis said, “poured their blood, sweat and tears into making this happen” — the vote is the final green light everyone’s been waiting for. With FERC’s laborious approval process now concluded, dam removal can begin, launching what is expected to be the biggest river restoration project in U.S. history.

“The Klamath salmon are coming home,” said Joseph James, the chairman of the Yurok Tribe, in a statement. “The people have earned this victory and with it, we carry on our sacred duty to the fish that have sustained our people since the beginning of time.”

Needs to be a lot more of this, including the four high dams on the Snake River in Washington so that Lewiston, Idaho can have its utterly pointless ocean-accessible port 500 miles inland. But these are very hard battles. I’ve been doing a good bit of research the last few years on the Snake issue (a little bit on the Klamath too but mostly the Snake) and there’s all kinds of narratives of progress and settlement that get wrapped up in these decisions that make it really hard.

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