Utility agrees to dam removal

Klamath River decommission would be largest in American history

After years of stonewalling, PacifiCorps, the Warren Buffett-owned power company that operates a series of five dams on the Upper Klamath River, has indicated its willingness to remove the lower four of them and signed an agreement in principle to that effect. Many details remain to be worked out, including who’s going to pay for it, but if it succeeds it will be the largest dam removal in American history. The target date is 2020.

The agreement between PacifiCorps, the states of Oregon and California, and the U.S. Department of the Interior will now move into wider negotiations with local stakeholders, including Indian tribes, irrigators, conservation groups, commercial fishing operators and local governments. Those groups already have crafted and signed off on a historic compromise known as the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

“We can remove dams, restore the fishery, and have prosperous farm communities all in the same basins,” Maria Tripp, chairwoman of the Yurok tribe, said in a press release.

Former Chicoan Steve Evans, of Sacramento-based Friends of the River, sounded a cautionary note. “The agreement has so many prerequisites that must occur before dam removal can happen that it would likely never result in the removal of any dams,” he said in a statement issued Friday (Nov. 14)