Plans to remove four dams on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon and Northern California continue to move ahead. Now, only about three years before the first dam is expected to be removed, it’s becoming clear that some early supporters may get less than they bargained for.
Outdoor recreationists, fishing and rafting guides among them, were early and vocal supporters of dam removal. They wanted all the things supporters of the project could be expected to want, most importantly improved survival and spawning grounds for endangered salmon that call the river home.
In exchange, rafting guides will lose a popular seven miles of class IV rapids that were created each summer by daily water releases from one of the dams, though fishing could well improve.
At the same time, the nonprofit agency created to handle the project said it would build or pay others to build new access points to the river as things progress. That changed this summer, however, as the Klamath River Renewal Corporation backed away from that plan.
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It had good reasons for doing so, according to KRRC spokesman Matt Cox. Recreation is outside the scope of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, for one thing. Too, it’s not yet clear who will own the PacifiCorp land when all is said and done, and the agency cannot commit unknown future owners to managing recreation sites.
Meanwhile, Cox says, the corporation will focus on its core mission of dam removal and fish habitat restoration. It also will try to persuade private parties and other nonprofits to do the access work recreationists had hoped for. That’s good. We hope its commitment to doing so is both heartfelt and carried out.
KRRC has yet to submit a final recreation plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must grant it the PacifiCorp dam licenses for current dam removal plans to go forward. That gives recreationists and the nonprofit a bit more time to find a solution to their problems.
— The (Bend) Bulletin