Agreement paves the way for largest dam demolition project in US history

California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and PacifiCorp in announcing an agreement to provide resources for the removal of four Klamath River dams that span from parts of Oregon to California.

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November 20, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp on Nov. 17 in announcing an agreement to provide additional resources and support to advance the largest dam demolition in U.S. history.

According to the parties, the project, when completed, will address declines in salmon populations, improve river health and renew tribal communities and cultures.

The memorandum of agreement signed by the states of California and Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe, PacifiCorp and the Klamath River Renewal Corp. (KRRC) describes how the parties will implement the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) as negotiated and signed in 2016. The KHSA sets the terms for the removal of four Klamath River dams that span from parts of Oregon to California.

“The Klamath River is a centerpiece of tribal community, culture and sustenance and a national ecological treasure,” Gov. Newsom says. “With this agreement, we are closer than ever to restoring access to 400 miles of salmon habitat which will be a boon to the local economy. I am grateful for the partnership between California and Oregon, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway that proves when we work together, we can build a better, more inclusive future for all.”

With the memorandum of agreement, the parties:

  • Jointly ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to remove PacifiCorp from the license for the project and add California, Oregon and KRRC as co-licensees for carrying out dam removal. Adding the states as co-licensees provides assurances that the project will have sufficient financial backing while honoring settlement terms that stipulate PacifiCorp would not be a co-licensee for removal.
  • Demonstrate their firm commitment to dam removal.
  • Agree to nearly double available contingency funds held by KRRC and contractors and, in the unlikely event that additional funds are needed beyond that, Oregon, California and PacifiCorp will share the costs equally to address FERC’s requirement to ensure full funding for the project.
  • Confirm that the KRRC will remain the dam removal entity for the project.
  • Plan to navigate the final regulatory approvals necessary to allow the project to begin in 2022 with dam removal in 2023. Site remediation and restoration will continue beyond 2023.
  • Retain the liability protections for PacifiCorp’s customers established in the KHSA.

Taken together, these provisions are intended to resolve FERC’s concerns raised in a July order and ensure a successful dam removal project.

“This is an incredibly important step forward on the path towards restorative justice for the people of the Klamath Basin, and towards restoring health to the river as well as everyone and everything that depends on it,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says. “From time immemorial, the stewardship of the indigenous peoples of the Klamath Basin have nurtured the lands, waters, fish and wildlife of this region. In Oregon, the Klamath tribes remember a time when their livelihoods were supported by clean, healthy and vibrant waters. It is that vision, that promise, that we are working towards restoring for the generations to come.”

Implementation of the amended KHSA requires two approvals by FERC. First, FERC must approve the transfer of the license for the dams from PacifiCorp to the KRRC and the states. Second, FERC must approve the dam removal plan.