Located in the western United States on the Oregon-California border, the Klamath River has been a focal point of environmental and socio-economic concerns due to its historic damming and subsequent ecological impacts. Several dams were constructed along the river in the 20th century primarily for hydropower generation and water diversion for agriculture. The dams have since disrupted natural river processes, leading to declines in fish populations, particularly salmon, and negatively impacting indigenous communities reliant on the waterway's resources.

In response to these ecological concerns, efforts began to gain momentum in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to address the environmental degradation of the Klamath River and restore its ecosystem, matching efforts elsewhere in the U.S. (for example, see DamNation).

Graphic: RES

One of the most significant developments came in 2020 when a landmark agreement was reached to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River - located near Hornbrook, California. This agreement was a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders, including indigenous tribes, government agencies, environmental organizations, and dam owner PacifiCorp.

The dam removal process involved several stages directed by Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), including environmental studies, regulatory approvals, and physical demolition. With the help of Texas-based Resource Environmental Solutions, it was decided that January was the best time month to start a demolition, so at the start of 2024 the process began.

Upstream of Iron Gate Dam (Shane Anderson/Swiftwater Films)

By mid-February, KRRC reported that the initial drawdown phase of sediment was complete - draining of Iron Gate, Copco, and JC Boyle reservoirs. A massive basin has emerged, depleted of vegetation. Work with RES and the Yurok Tribe involves the restoration of these by planting of millions of seeds during Spring 2024. When completed, 2,200 acres of formerly submerged ground.

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