A draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was released earlier this week by the California’s State Water Resources Control Board is being hailed by California and Oregon’s natural resources leaders as a milestone in the effort to reopen hundreds of miles of historic habitat for salmonids along the Klamath River and its tributaries. The decade-long project is part of broader effort to remove four hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River.
The California State Water Board released a draft water quality certification in June but issuance of the final certification requires review under the California Environmental Quality Act. The total project requires the removal of three dams in California and one in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a final water quality certification for removal of the Oregon dam in September.
Regarding the issuance of the California draft EIR this week, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said, “(These) developments move us closer to the goal of removing the four dams and restoring natural and ecological function within the Klamath River watershed. This project is our best opportunity to heal the Klamath River and solve water quality and fisheries problems that have affected Klamath Basin communities for decades.”
The newly-released California EIR examines the potential impacts associated with the Lower Klamath Project. The project was originally proposed by the non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) to decommission and remove the three hydroelectric dams in California and one in Oregon to create a free-flowing Klamath River and restore access to historic habitat for fish. It is expected that the project will also improve water quality and create a more natural temperature process in the Klamath River.
The KRRC proposed the removal and decommissioning of the dams, the broader effort by California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes, water users and conservation organizations is to revitalize the basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s farming and ranching heritage. KRRC has already applied for a water quality certification from the State Water Board for the project. This is a necessary step in securing approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The federal Clean Water Act requires states to certify that anything released into the nation’s waters complies with water quality standards including water releases from removal of hydroelectric dams.
“The removal of the Klamath River dam complex is a significant step in ensuring our communities and future generations have access to the resources provided by a healthy Klamath River watershed,” Oregon Water Quality Administrator Justin Green said. “I commend everyone who has contributed to advancing this ambitious project and look forward to continued coordination between Oregon and California.”