Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Don’t the dams improve water quality?
A: The Klamath Project dams create slow-flowing, shallow reservoirs. Under the warm summer sun, these shallow reservoirs act like heat sinks, resulting in warm and stagnant water that is the perfect breeding ground for toxic blue-green algae and many fish diseases. When released from the dams, the water creates a host of problems downstream for fish, wildlife, and communities.
Here's a great explanation of the effects that dams have on water quality and rivers in general. It's done by the Hydropower Reform Coalition, which tries to make dams run better, and it's a fun, quick look at the issues. Go to the Dam Effects web page.
Q: Aren’t these dams “clean energy” or a “renewable resource” and won’t removing them contribute to global warming?
A: Not necessarily. Hydropower dams are one of the widely accepted reasons for salmon decline in the West. Water may be renewable, but species and ecosystems are not. The California Energy Commission looked at this issue and determined that removing the Klamath Project will not contribute to global warming because the hydropower can easily be replaced by wind, solar power, or efficiency measures, for less cost to customers than keeping the dams.
Q: Isn’t there an energy shortage and won't removing these dams contribute to an already short power supply?
A: No. The California Energy Commission looked at this issue and determined that removing the Klamath Project will have no impact on local or regional energy supply. The Klamath dams produce 162 megawatts of power when operating at full capacity. This amount, according to energy experts, isn’t even enough to be detectable as part of the regional energy supply. Additionally, the California Energy Commission’s report states that there is plenty of energy available for purchase that is truly clean and renewable.
Q: What about sediment behind the dams? PacifiCorp says no one knows what is behind those dams and removing them could send toxic materials down the river.
A: The California Coastal Conservancy took dozens of sediment samples from the reservoirs and found no trace of toxic materials in the samples. Based upon their analysis, the California Coastal Conservancy concluded that the sediment behind the dams is very unlikely to contain toxic materials and can be flushed from the area by natural river flows in one or two years.
Q: Will removing these dams threaten downriver communities with flooding?
A: No. These dams provide no flood protection. In fact, the largest dam, Iron Gate, was not put in to provide flood protection, but to stabilize river flow because of the operations of the other hydropower dams upstream. Additionally, the California Coastal Conservancy determined that there is little risk of flooding downstream communities were the Klamath dams to be removed.
Q: Will removing these dams harm water supplies or prevent farmers from irrigating their crops?
A: No. J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate dams do not provide drinking water or irrigation water.
Q: How do you know the fish will return if you remove the dams? Isn’t it possible that the salmon won’t come back and then you will have lost power on top of it?
A: Un-build it and they will come. Salmon currently return to the Klamath each and every year, but are prevented by these dams from reaching hundreds of miles of habitat. One need look no further than the Toutle River in Washington where salmon immediately returned to the river after the devastating eruption of Mount St. Helens. Additionally, fish started returning to the Kennebec River in Maine only one year after the removal of the Edwards Dam. Removing the Klamath dams will open hundreds of miles of habitat to salmon, improve water quality in the river, and decrease the risks of disease to migrating fish.
Q: Who is behind this campaign?
A: The campaign is a collaboration of Friends of the River and the Karuk Tribe. We work in partnership with various other entities including tribes, agencies, and citizen groups.
Q: Who makes the final decision about the dams?
A: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make the final decision on the fate of the dams. Historically, FERC has given deference to the wishes of stakeholders when they agree in a settlement. That is why it is so important that Pacific Power work with state and federal agencies, tribes, farmers, and citizens on a settlement agreement that will restore the Klamath River and keep power rates low. We believe the best way to do this is to remove the Iron Gate, Copco 1, Copco 2, and J.C. Boyle dams.
Q: If it's so obvious, why isn't Pacific Power doing it?
A: It’s impossible to know for certain, but we do know that Pacific Power has chosen to pursue dam removal of uneconomic and ecologically damaging projects in four other instances: the Condit Project on the White Salmon River, WA; the Powerdale Project on the Hood River, OR; the Cove Project on the Bear River, ID; and the American Fork Project on the American Fork River, UT. The common thread among these projects is that removal was ecologically beneficial for the river and a good business decision for Pacific Power and its customers.
Q: So, what does all this have to do with power rates?
A: Energy companies are allowed to pass the cost of reasonable business expenditures to their customers. When energy companies are required to build fish ladders as the condition of receiving a new license, they request that the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) allow them to pass along this cost to power customers in the form of higher electric rates.
Agencies including the California Energy Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission looked into the cost of retrofitting the dams to comply with current law and compared it to the cost of simply removing the dams. They found that removing the dams could save Pacific Power's customers approximately $30 to $290 million!
Q: What can I do?
A: You can write to the PUC and tell them you want them to remove the Klamath dams and keep your power rates affordable. Click here to make your voice heard!