Independent Panel Raises Serious Questions Regarding Efficacy of Klamath Dam Removal Plan
Posted in Conservation

A plan to remove four dams along the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon through California to the Pacific Ocean, has major proponents including the federal government, the States of California and Oregon, and a number of environmental groups.  But in a June 13, 2011 report (pdf), an independent review panel has raised serious questions regarding the likelihood that the dam removal proposal will achieve the principal conservation goal of increasing the population of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Klamath River system.

The panel acknowledged the potential benefits of the plan for Chinook, noting that the "Proposed Action appears to be a major step forward in conserving target fish populations compared with decades of vigorous disagreements, obvious fish passage barriers, and continued ecological degradation."  But the panel went on to express uncertainty regarding the relative benefits of the plan for the species.  It noted that there are many  limiting factors on Chinook salmon in the Klamath River system, and voiced "strong reservations" that the plan will be implemented in a manner that addresses those limiting factors other than the presence of the dams, which include water quality problems, disease, interbreeding with hatchery salmon, and predation.  Furthermore, the panel noted the possibility that there would be conflicts between management options to meet the needs of Chinook salmon and other fish that are presently listed under the Endangered Species Act or that could be listed in the near future.

One news article reporting the release of the report included a grim assessment by one of the panel members: "'I think there's no way in hell they're going to solve' the basin's water-quality problems, said Wim Kimmerer, an environmental research professor at San Francisco State, one of six experts who reviewed the plan. 'It doesn't seem to me like they've thought about the big picture very much.'"  (Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2011, by Bettina Boxall.)  It is unclear what fallout will result from release of the panel report.

  • Paul S. Weiland
    Partner

    Paul Weiland is chair of Nossaman’s Environment & Land Use Group. He focuses his practice on litigation, permitting, and compliance counseling. Paul’s clients include public agencies, publicly regulated utilities, private ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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