Plan to raze 4 dams on California-Oregon line clears hurdle
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A proposal to bring down four hydroelectric dams near the California-Oregon border cleared a major regulatory hurdle Thursday, setting the stage for the largest dam demolition project in U.S. history to save imperiled migratory salmon.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission action comes after the demolition proposal almost fell apart last summer, but then a new agreement and additional funding revived it. Thursday's ruling will allow the utility that runs the dams, PacifiCorp, to transfer its hydroelectric license jointly to the nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation, Oregon and California.
Regulators still must approve the actual surrender of the license. Dam removal could start in 2023.
Tribes on the lower Klamath River that have watched salmon struggle applauded the decision. It came the same week that California accepted a petition to add Klamath River spring chinook salmon to the state's endangered species list.
The aging dams were built before current environmental regulations and essentially cut the 253-mile-long (407-kilometer-long) river in half for migrating salmon, whose numbers have been plummeting.
Coho salmon from the river are listed as threatened under federal and California law, and their population has fallen anywhere from 52% to 95%. Spring chinook salmon, once the Klamath Basin’s largest run, has dwindled by 98%.
Fall chinook, the last to persist in any significant numbers, have been so meager in the past few years that the Yurok Tribe canceled fishing for the first time in memory. In 2017, they bought fish at a grocery store for their annual salmon festival.
Another tribe, the Karuk Tribe, said in a statement that the regulators' decision “reflects the hard work of our partnership with PacifiCorp, California, Oregon,...