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Governors Brown and Newsom sign on in support of Klamath River dam removal

With Oregon and California on-board, it seems likely that the project to remove a series of dams on the Klamath River will go forward despite an upset from federal regulators.

Posted: Nov 17, 2020 3:16 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The governors of Oregon and California have agreed to sign on in support of the plan to remove a series of dams along the Klamath River, likely saving a project that recently appeared to founder after a ruling by federal regulators.

The plan to remove the four PacifiCorp dams has been in the works for years now, and saw cooperation between the northwest power company, tribes of the Klamath River Basin, and Pacific Coast fishers who want to see salmon populations rebound.

However, in July the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a ruling that required PacifiCorp to remain a co-licensee even after handing over the dams to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the group that represents stakeholders in the dam removal project.

The FERC's ruling posed a potential upset to the project — keeping PacifiCorp on the hook for at least partial liability if anything were to go wrong.

On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom joined Oregon Governor Kate Brown, leaders from the Yurok and Karuk Tribes, and representatives from the Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp in signing onto an agreement that promises to see the project through to completion.

“The Klamath River is a centerpiece of tribal community, culture and sustenance and a national ecological treasure,” Governor Newsom said. “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.”

The Memorandum of Agreement signed by those parties asks the FERC to remove PacifiCorp from the license, adding the states of California and Oregon on as co-licensees instead.

"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," Newsom's office said.

The agreement also commits to seeing the dam removal project through, nearly doubles contingency funds for the KRRC and dam removal contractors, and promises to share costs between all parties if needed. KRRC will remain the primary entity in charge of the project.

Under the agreement, the parties agree to seek final regulatory approvals in order to begin the project in 2022, with dam removal slated for 2023. Other restoration work would continue beyond 2023.

The FERC must approve both the new license transfer agreement, and the dam removal plan itself.

“As Yurok tribal people, it is our sacred duty to bring balance to the Klamath River,” Yurok Tribe Chair Joseph James said. “At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people. We have never wavered from this obligation and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 2460
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Washington23492229
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Clackamas15451204
Lane11656144
Jackson9938127
Umatilla796883
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Linn417563
Yamhill411675
Klamath349059
Polk345752
Malheur342858
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Crook88119
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Grant4124
Harney3066
Wallowa1575
Sherman570
Gilliam561
Wheeler251
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Reported Deaths: 61045
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Los Angeles122932823648
Riverside2973194528
San Bernardino2948834556
San Diego2751123674
Orange2690364896
Santa Clara1171862017
Kern1078791322
Sacramento1015111646
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Contra Costa67101782
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Tulare49414831
Monterey43267357
San Mateo41201560
San Francisco36073525
Santa Barbara33913446
Solano32027239
Merced31267452
Sonoma29715311
Imperial27991719
Kings22777245
Placer21878283
San Luis Obispo20972257
Madera16277239
Santa Cruz15615204
Marin13865226
Yolo13562200
Shasta11722218
Butte11591196
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Tehama543056
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Lake341343
Glenn235825
Colusa219916
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Modoc4904
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