The Klamath River is located in southwestern Oregon (Klamath County) and northern California (Siskiyou County). Originating from Upper Klamath Lake in southern Oregon, the Klamath River flows 240 miles from Oregon into northern California before emptying into the Pacific Ocean near Requa, CA. The river drains an area of about 13,000 square miles.
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Pacific Power’s six-dam hydropower project on the Klamath River:
- blocks salmon and steelhead from reaching over 300 miles of historic spawning habitat;
- harms regional fishing economies;
- degrades water quality in the reservoirs and below the dams;
- reduces the quality of life for tribes and fishermen living in the basin.
Pacific Power is an investor owned utility.
Copco I Dam
Copco II Dam
JC Boyle Dam
Historically, the Klamath River was one of the three most productive salmon rivers in America. Today dams, diversions, and other basin activities have caused coho and fall Chinook salmon populations to decline to 10% of historic numbers. That has led to strict limits on commercial salmon fishing in California and Oregon in 2005 and 2006. The impact to the economies of Oregon and California was $100 million as a result of the fisheries closures.
Tribes, fishermen, and environmentalists see dam removal as a fundamental step toward restoring the Klamath’s fishery. With the political pressure exerted over the past few years by a broad coalition of Klamath Basin Indian Tribes, commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, and conservationists, the hope for a restored Klamath River is moving closer to a reality.
In all, there are six dams on the main stem of the Klamath River: Iron Gate, Copco I and Copco II, J.C. Boyle, Keno, and Link River. Keno and Link effectively replace natural reefs that were destroyed, and they re-regulate erratic flows for the upstream irrigation project. The Karuk Tribe and its allies seek the removal of the lower four dams.
When the Copco 1 Dam was constructed on the Klamath River in 1918, it permanently blocked access to more than 300 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat in the main stem of the upper Klamath and its tributaries. Another dam, Copco 2, was constructed just a quarter-mile downstream of the original facility in 1925. The aptly named 173-foot-high Iron Gate Dam was constructed in 1962 to re-regulate the wildly varying flows from the upstream Copco dams and run a 20 megawatt power plant. With the construction of Iron Gate, an additional seven miles of spawning habitat in the main stem as well as important tributaries such as Jenny Creek were blocked.
Today, all anadromous runs of salmon and steelhead, once abundant in the upper basin, are extinct above Iron Gate Dam. This means over 350 miles of historic salmon habitat is unreachable by fish and much of it buried beneath reservoirs.
Klamath Hydropower Project Facts
- Year built: 1918 and later
- Capacity: 160 megawatts
- Generation provided: 1% of Pacific Power demand
- Flood protection provided: none
- Water supply provided: none
- Miles of habitat blocked: 350
- Fish species affected: coho, chinook, steelhead, lamprey
- Cost of removal: $90 million
Klamath Hydropower Project Consists of:
- Keno Dam, a 24-ft nonhydro dam that smoothes return flows from the Bureau’s Klamath Irrigation Project.
- JC Boyle Dam, a 60-ft high dam and 90 MW powerhouse that dewaters 4.3 miles of river.
- Copco 1 Dam, a 120 ft-high dam and 20 MW powerhouse.
- Copco 2 Dam, a 25 ft-high dam and 27 MW powerhouse that dewaters 1.4 miles of river.
- Iron Gate Dam, a 162 ft dam and 18 MW powerhouse.
- Fall Creek Dam, a small diversion dam and 2.2 MW powerhouse on a tributary to the Klamath.
Thanks to American Rivers for compiling these statistics.