Largest US dam removal stirs debate over coveted West water

Environment

In this photo taken March 3, 2020, the Klamath River is seen flowing across northern California from atop Cade Mountain in the Klamath National Forest. A plan to demolish four dams on California’s second-largest river to benefit threatened salmon has sharpened a decades-old dispute over who has the biggest claim to the river’s life-giving waters. The project, if it goes forward, would be the largest dam demolition project in U.S. history and reopen 400 stream miles of potential salmon habitat that’s been blocked off for more than a century. Numerous tribes in southern Oregon and northern California are pushing for the dams’ removal to save dwindling salmon populations in California’s second-largest river. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

KLAMATH, Calif. (AP) — Plans to tear down four hydroelectric dams in rugged country along the Oregon-California border to save salmon are generating excitement from environmentalists and tribes, and fear and anger among those who want the dams to stay.

The $450 million project would be the largest dam demolition in U.S. history. It would reshape vast stretches of the Klamath River and could bring salmon back to spawning habitat that has been blocked to fish for more than a century.

The project would reopen 400 stream miles of potential salmon habitat that’s been blocked off for more than a century. Numerous tribes in southern Oregon and northern California are pushing for the dams’ removal to save dwindling salmon populations in California’s second-largest river.

Map shows Klamath River dams in California and Oregon.

Project backers say federal regulators could vote this spring to transfer the dams’ hydroelectric licenses from the current operator to a nonprofit formed to oversee the demolition. 

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