SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Public Utility Commission this week approved power company PacifiCorp's application to transfer four dams on the Klamath River to a corporation that will pursue their removal.
The push to remove the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1 & 2, and Iron Gate dams has been underway for years, but in mid-June the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) put its stamp of approval on the transfer proposal.
Now the PUC has added its stamp of approval — one that joins similar approvals from utility commissions in California, Idaho, and Wyoming.
“Our decision to approve the transfer is one step on a long and winding path that will continue through the next phases,” said PUC Chair Megan Decker. “It keeps in motion efforts to restore the Klamath Basin and improve the health of a river vital to indigenous communities and others that depend on it.”
According to the PUC, the Lower Klamath Project dams were built entirely for the purpose of power generation, and were not made for irrigation, flood control, or safe fish passage. Upriver, the Keno and Link River dams both include fish passages and serve the Klamath Project irrigation network.
“Given the high expected cost to relicense and continue operating these dams, the likelihood that the dams would generate less energy after relicensing, and the declining cost of alternative power sources, dam removal remains the least costly and risky option for PacifiCorp customers,” Decker continued.
PacifiCorp originally submitted an application for the transfer back in 2010, but the PUC concluded that a transfer would be "premature" and should wait until closer to the actual date.
Once PacifiCorp successfully transfers ownership of the dams, they'll go to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation to see the removal process through. The KRRC, which represents stakeholders in the project, received backing from the governors of Oregon and California in November. Both states signed on as co-licensees to help absorb any potential liability for the project.