The world”s largest dam removal project is progressing according to schedule, as the first  Klamath River dam (Copco 2) fell last week. The Copco 2 Dam is the smallest of the four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath that will be removed. These dams have blocked salmon, steelhead, and other species from completing their migrations and accessing hundreds of miles of habitat essential to their life histories. Once this project is complete, however, some 400 miles of restored habitat will be available and give these runs a chance for recovery.

“We are about to witness healing on a major scale,” said Dr. Ann Willis, California Director, American Rivers. “Dam removal is the best way to bring a river back to life. The Klamath is significant not only because it is the biggest dam removal effort in history, but because it shows that we can right historic wrongs and make big, bold dreams a reality for our rivers and communities.”

Earlier this summer, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), which was transferred ownership of the dams and responsible for their removal, issued an update on construction. “While this is just the first step, it certainly is an exciting moment,” said Mark Bransom, CEO of KRRC. “Crews are making fast progress in these early stages of the project, and we are on track with our removal timeline.”

According to KRRC’s construction timeline, work is on track with a target completion date (all four dams removed) of late 2024. Also, pre-construction restoration efforts are well underway in preparation of all this new habitat becoming accessible to migratory species.

Late last year, TU, NOAA Fisheries, and other partners unveiled a restoration blueprint for the Klamath Basin.”In the end, the report identified over 80 potential habitat and fish passage restoration opportunities, nearly 80 potential locations for screening irrigation diversions, and almost 40 projects that would benefit instream flows within the reservoir reach,” said Nell Scott, who leads TU’s restoration work in the upper Klamath Basin. “It then evaluates potential impacts to fish recovery and rates each of these projects as high, medium, or low priority. We expect this plan to be a tool for conservation partners to engage and partner with private landowners in the reach to accomplish restoration goals.”

We’ll be following this project and restoration work closely, so keep an eye out for more stories and interviews. This is one of those transformational habitat restoration projects that will inject life, re-inject salmon and steelhead, and restore much of the Klamath River Basin.

Cover picture from KRCC.

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Will Poston
Will Poston has been with us here at Flylords since 2017 and is now our Conservation Editor. Will focuses on high-profile conservation issues, such as Pebble Mine, the Clean Water Act rollbacks, recovering the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead, and everything in-between. Will is from Washington, DC, and you can find him fishing on the tidal Potomac River in Washington, DC or chasing striped bass and Albies up and down the East Coast—and you know, anywhere else he can find a good bite!


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