The US States of Oregon, California, the Yurok Tribe and the Karuk Tribe have signed a historic agreement to move forward on the largest dam removal project in the US.
The agreement, if approved, would revive plans to remove four hydroelectric dams from the lower Klamath River.
The project would address declines in fish populations, improve river health and renew tribal communities and cultures.
“The Klamath River is a centrepiece of tribal community, culture and sustenance and a national ecological treasure,” said California Governor Newsom in a statement.
“With this agreement, we are closer than ever to restoring access to 400 miles of salmon habitat which will be a boon to the local economy. I am grateful for the partnership between California and Oregon, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway that proves when we work together, we can build a better, more inclusive future for all.”
The agreement describes how the parties will implement the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) as negotiated and signed in 2016. In it, the parties set out a number of provisions, which are intended to resolve recent concerns raised by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about cost overruns and accidents.
“This is an incredibly important step forward on the path towards restorative justice for the people of the Klamath Basin, and towards restoring health to the river as well as everyone and everything that depends on it,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said.
“From time immemorial, the stewardship of the Indigenous peoples of the Klamath basin have nurtured the lands, waters, fish and wildlife of this region. In Oregon, the Klamath tribes remember a time when their livelihoods were supported by clean, healthy, and vibrant waters. It is that vision, that promise, that we are working towards restoring for the generations to come.”
The agreement now requires two approvals by the FERC before it can be implemented. First, the FERC needs to approve the transfer of the licence for the dams from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation and the states. Second, the FERC has to approve the dam removal plan.
“As Yurok tribal people, it is our sacred duty to bring balance to the Klamath River,” Yurok Tribe Chair Joseph James added. “At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people".