Draft Environmental Impact Report for Removal of Klamath River Dams Available for Comment

By on January 13, 2019
Klamath River

The Draft Environmental Impact Report pertaining to the removal of the dams and associated facilities that together form the Lower Klamath Project (FERC Project No. 14083) is now available for public review and comment until February 26, 2019. The Lower Klamath Project is located along the Klamath River, in Siskiyou County, California, and in Klamath County, Oregon.

On September 23, 2016, PacifiCorp and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) filed a joint application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to separate PacifiCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project facilities into two separate projects – the Lower Klamath Project and the Klamath Hydroelectric Project.  The Lower Klamath Project consists primarily of three dams and associated facilities. The Klamath Hydroelectric Project consists primarily of facilities in Oregon although one facility, Fall Creek, is located in California.

When KRRC filed its FERC application to separate the Klamath Hydroelectric Project facilities into two separate projects it also applied to FERC for permission to decommission the Lower Klamath Project in accordance with the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. On September 23, 2016, the KRRC also applied to the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for a water quality certification for the Project under section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

Whereas FERC approved the separation of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project into two licenses, thereby creating a new license for the Lower Klamath Project on March 15 of last year, the application to the SWRCB was just recently acted upon with the issuance of the DEIR. The California DEIR report found no significant long-term water quality concerns. The project had received a similar 401 permit certification from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality pertaining to the removal of the John C. Boyle dam.

Mark Bransom, CEO for the KRRC, issued a statement praising the DEIR saying, “This draft report is a key step to completing this critical project and rehabilitating one of the great rivers of the American west. It’s a sign of meaningful progress and I look forward to a thorough KRRC review of the report and its proposals. KRRC is pleased that after considering the full range of project benefits and impacts, the DEIR looked favorably on the Proposed Project.”

The DEIR evaluates potential environmental impacts of the Lower Klamath Project and includes proposed measures to avoid, mitigate, or offset those impacts. The DEIR expressed no significant long-term water quality concerns and stated in the report that, “In the long term there would be no significant impact due to … the release of sediments currently trapped behind the dams.”

But Frank Shrier, a fisheries biologist with SWCA Environmental Consultants, presented a differing view of the situation saying, “There are some prime spawning and holding areas for fish that are going to be filled in,” he said. “If all the sediment makes it down the delta – which it will eventually – it is going to be even harder for fish to get in because it will block off access when there is low flow in the Klamath.”

The SWRCB has indicated that it will evaluate and consider all responses and comments as it develops its final EIR. The final EIR is expected to be released in this summer. A complete copy of the DEIR is available for review at: http://www.klamathrenewal.org/deir/.