Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region
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Programs

Hydropower

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office (Yreka FWO) Hydropower Branch works on a variety of issues surrounding the potential re-licensing of hydropower dams in the Klamath Basin.  These dams are operated by PacifiCorp, a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah.


PacifiCorp’s 151 megawatt Klamath Hydroelectric Project (Klamath Project) is the only hydro project in the Klamath Basin.  The Project occupies PacifiCorp’s lands and 219 acres of lands of the United States, which are administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  These lands are located along the Klamath River in Klamath County, Oregon and Siskiyou County, California.  For more information, see Maps of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project.

The Project includes six dams on the mainstem Klamath River.  Going downstream from Upper Klamath Lake, they are:  Link River Dam (owned by the Bureau of Reclamation), Keno Dam, J.C. Boyle Dam, Copco No. 1 Dam, Copco No. 2 Dam, and Iron Gate Dam.  In addition, one other development is located on a tributary to the Klamath River, Fall Creek.  See the Description of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project facilities.

The federal government’s role in hydropower licensing and re-licensing is varied and complex.  Dams are licensed for the purposes of power generation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  In the case of the Klamath Project, the 50 year license expired in March of 2006 and PacifiCorp has applied to re-license the Project under terms similar to the previous license, which was issued in 1956. 

Because PacifiCorp has applied for a new license, Federal resource agencies are required to participate in the FERC re-licensing process.  As provided for by the Federal Power Act, the Yreka FWO recommended terms of a new license to protect fish and wildlife resources.  The Department of Interior prescribed fishways that would allow fish to migrate past the dams, both upstream and downstream (Click here to see the DOI Modified Prescriptions).  Information is also available on additional documents associated with the re-licensing of the Klamath Project.

As required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FERC issued a notice of availability of the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on September 25, 2006 and comments on the draft EIS were considered and incorporated into FERC’s final environmental impact statement (FEIS) in November 2007.  FERC has yet to relicense the Project. 


While the Department of Interior has prescribed fishways as a condition of relicensing, the Department and its agencies have also been working with PacifiCorp, California, and Oregon on a settlement agreement that may result in the decommissioning and removal of the Klamath Project.  

In November 2008, the federal government, the state of California, the state of Oregon, and PacifiCorp announced an Agreement in Principle (AIP) that takes the first critical step down a presumptive path toward a historic resolution of Klamath River resource issues and the Klamath River dams.  Negotiations among these parties continue and the themes expressed in the AIP will guide the parties toward reaching a Final Agreement.  The AIP provides a flexible framework for the presumed transfer of four dams from PacifiCorp to a government designated dam removal entity (DRE), which would then undertake the removal of those dams, and sets a timeline for the signing of a final agreement.  Under the AIP final authority for dam removal must be granted by the Secretary of the Interior following an assessment to confirm the current view of the United States and governments of California and Oregon that dam removal is in the public interest.  For more information on the AIP click here.

The AIP compels the federal government to scientifically assess the costs and benefits of dam removal.  The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) (for the United States) will make a final determination by March 31, 2012, whether the benefits of dam removal will justify the costs—informed by scientific and engineering studies conducted in the interim, and in consultation with state, local, and tribal governments and other stakeholders, as appropriate.  At that point, the Secretary shall designate a non-federal dam removal entity to remove the dams or decline to remove the dams at which point PacifiCorp will return to FERC for relicensing. 


The AIP also includes language that is supportive of efforts among additional Klamath stakeholders to solve long-running and complex water-related issues in Klamath Basin.  This section reads:Although this Agreement (AIP) is the full and complete Agreement of the Parties (U.S. California, Oregon and PacifiCorp) at this time, the Parties agree that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and Final Agreement will be indivisible parts of a unified approach to resolving Klamath Basin issues in the broad public interest. The Parties will ensure that the Final Agreement and legislation proposed or supported by the Parties are consistent with this principle.”


The Parties hope to have a final hydropower agreement in place by June 2009.

For more information, see the following:

Iron Gate Dam, May 5, 2005, photo by L. Simons, USFWSIron Gate Dam, May 5, 2005,
photo by L. Simons, USFWS


Klamath River just above the caldera between J.C. Boyle Dam and Copco Reservoir, photo by L. Simons, USFWSKlamath River just above the caldera between J.C. Boyle Dam and Copco Reservoir, photo by L. Simons, USFWS

Fall Creek, photo by Roxanna Hinzman, USFWSFall Creek, photo by Roxanna Hinzman, USFWS