Tuesday April 9, 2024

Trout Unlimited

The Klamath dam removal process is well underway and has received a lot of attention – both positive and negative. In some cases, outright misinformation has been spread by opponents of dam removal.

As this massive restoration project unfolds, it is a great moment to provide an update and highlight how extensive project planning has mitigated the temporary impacts to water quality. 

Of the four dams that are slated for removal in the Klamath River, the smallest one (Copco 2) was deconstructed last year. Below the former site, the river has returned to a 1.7-mile-long canyon that was dewatered when Copco 2 was built.

The reservoirs behind the remaining three dams (JC Boyle, Copco 1, and Iron Gate) were drained in a ‘drawdown’ process that began in January. At Iron Gate, an existing diversion tunnel through the base of the dam was opened for the first time since the dam was built. Explosives were used at Copco 1 and JC Boyle to breach a path for the water. As planned, the released water transported decades of accumulated sediment downstream from the former impoundments.

Immediately following drawdown, staff from the Yurok Tribe began planting native seeds and acorns in the dewatered reservoirs as a part of the planned revegetation effort. As those plants are established, they will stabilize the remaining reservoir sediments, preventing erosion and high suspended sediment concentrations in the future. Two months into the process, seedlings can already be seen growing in the former reservoirs.

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