World's largest dam removal agreement reached

Dam removal will restore 300 miles of ailing salmon and steelhead populations

In a move lauded by the sportfishing industry, last week PacifiCorp, an energy provider in the northwestern United States, agreed to remove four dams on California's Klamath River opening up more than 300 miles of habitat for the Klamath's salmon and steelhead populations and eliminate water quality problems caused by the dams' reservoirs. The Klamath River was once the nation's third-largest salmon producer.

In August 2006, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and 11 other conservation groups requested that PacifiCorp remove the dams. This initiative was sparked by the application filed by PacifiCorp for renewal of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits for the dams. The last time the permits were renewed occurred long before most environmental laws were enacted.

The Agreement in Principle, released on November 13, is intended to guide the development of a final settlement agreement in June 2009, which includes provisions to remove PacifiCorp's four main dams in 2020, a century after the first dam was constructed.

"We are very pleased with PacifiCorp's agreement to remove the dams from the Klamath River," said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. "This historic agreement will allow for salmon and steelhead populations to once again prosper benefiting fishing communities that depend on healthy fish populations as well as recreational anglers."

Robertson further said, "In a February 2007 meeting with PacifiCorp's President Bill Furman, ASA and other conservation community leaders were impressed with the forthright and open manner of Mr. Furman as well as his commitment to work with us to find a solution. President Bush, Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne and California and Oregon along with Mr. Furman are to be commended for staying focused and forging this historic agreement."

PacifiCorp's four dams produce a nominal amount of power, which can be replaced using alternate methods. A study by the California Energy Commission and the Department of the Interior found that removing the dams and replacing their power would save PacifiCorp customers up to $285 million over 30 years. PacifiCorp also agreed to provide as much as $200 million dollars to cover the cost of removal and to help restore the Klamath River.

According to the initial agreement, PacifiCorp will transfer control of the dams to the federal government, although an independent third-party will be identified to actually remove the dams.