May 23, 2024

Oregon, California representatives oppose dam removal

Four dams on the Klamath River are set to be removed.
November 19, 2022

Republicans Bentz and LaMalfa say they will try to stop Klamath River project

By Lee Juillerat for

The two Congressmen whose districts include the counties where four Klamath River dams are scheduled for removal say they oppose the project and will seek “legislative options” to prevent the removals from happening.

In a joint statement released Friday by Doug LaMalfa, R-California, and Cliff Bentz, R-Oregon, in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) order announced Thursday approving the transfer of ownership of the dams from PacifiCorp, the House members indicated they will try to prevent removal of the dams when the House of Representatives convenes under Republican leadership in January.

“We are exploring legislative options to properly address this politicized and environmentally destructive decision,” they said in the statement. “Additionally, in the upcoming 118th Congress, we Republicans will use our majority to aggressively conduct oversight of this flawed decision-making process,” they said.

“We are outraged by FERC’s decision to allow surrender of the PacifiCorp Klamath hydroelectric license to a shell corporation, thus allowing PacifiCorp to avoid responsibility for the consequences of removing its Klamath River dams,” they said in Friday’s statement. “Such consequences include reducing power generation, eliminating recreational assets, decimating the local community’s economy, destroying firefighting resources, and damaging the Klamath River’s ecosystems.

“The politicization of this process,” they said, “is apparent in Oregon and California’s stampede to issue the Clean Water Act Section 401 certifications required to remove the dams. The release of massive amounts of accumulated silt from behind the dams will be devastating to water quality, will cover spawning beds, and will choke fish. Obviously, when politically expedient, the governors of California and Oregon will turn a blind eye to dramatic and substantial environmental damages.”

Under the 174-page FERC ruling announced Thursday, planning to remove the dams will move forward with the first of the four dams, Copco 2, scheduled for removal in 2023 while the other three — Copco 1, Irongate and J.C. Boyle — are planned in 2024. If completed, it will be the world’s largest restoration project. Supporters say eliminating the dams will improve water quality and fisheries, benefit tribes living along and near the river, and assist commercial fishing organizations.

“Restoring the Klamath gives our struggling salmon fishing industry a chance to survive,” said Vivian Hilliwell, a former commercial salmon harvester who is now the Watershed Conservation Director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA). “The possibility of revitalized Klamath fish runs gives us hope that we can continue our tradition of bringing healthy wild salmon to dinner tables across America.”

LaMalfa, like Benz, remains opposed, saying in a separate press release, “Voters in Jackson and Klamath counties in Oregon, and Siskiyou County in California have overwhelmingly voted against removing the dams. Even Congress has rejected the decommission. Unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission systematically ignored the concerns of the citizens in the region with their unilateral decision yesterday, and yet they’re expecting those same residents to deal with the fallout and pay for this massive mistake. I’m exploring all legislative options to stop this politicized and environmentally catastrophic decision.”

In their joint statement, LaMalfa and Benz, elaborated on reasons for their opposition.

“Many of the residents of the Klamath Basin have been outspoken in their opposition to dam removal. Siskiyou County has overwhelmingly voted against decommissioning, and Congress has refused to fund dam removal. Instead of respecting the voice of the people, unelected bureaucrats are providing a blank check, payable by tax and rate payers of Oregon and California, to cover the unknown costs associated with dam removal,” they said. “No plan exists to ensure that proper river flows will be available following dam removal. FERC’s decision, and Oregon and California’s complicity in steamrolling the environmental protections under by the Clean Water Act, will not adequately protect to the health and prosperity of the community or the environment.”

LaMalfa represents California’s First Congressional District, which includes Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama counties. Benz represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which include all or part of 20 counties, including Klamath, Jackson and Lake counties.

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at

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