Historic Move: Iron Gate Dam’s Partial Opening Marks Crucial Step in Klamath River Restoration- Final Steps in the Largest Dam Removal Project in N. CA


In a landmark move towards ecological restoration, the partial opening of the gate on the 16-foot-wide bypass tunnel at the Iron Gate dam signifies a crucial step in the removal of four aging hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River.

This initiative, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November 2022, aims to reopen 400 miles of habitat that salmon have been unable to reach for over a century.

Over the last week, a flow of 2,200 cubic feet of water per second gradually lowered the reservoir between two and four feet each day, allowing the uninhibited passage of water and sediment through the widened channel. The removal of these dams is expected to revive the Klamath River’s ecosystem, which has suffered from declining salmon runs and poor water quality.

However, the endeavor is not without controversy, especially in the drought-stricken Klamath River Basin. Critics argue that the reservoirs created by the dams are vital to surrounding communities, providing tax revenue, recreation opportunities, and waterfront property values. Residents in the counties surrounding the dams have voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping them, expressing concerns about potential flooding and the release of sediment stored behind the dams.

Earlier this year, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors raised their apprehensions, sharing many of these concerns addressed in a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. They outlined the anticipated costs of dam removal, including new flood risks, impacts to water wells, lower property values, and property tax losses.

Despite the opposition, proponents of dam removal, including tribal activists and environmental advocates, see it as a historic and life-changing move that will benefit the river, the salmon population, and the surrounding ecosystem. The ongoing dismantling of these barriers signifies a hopeful future for the Klamath River and its inhabitants.


[Source: NPR]

Photo: Hydro Review

Photo: EPA