FERC Approves Transfer of Klamath Hydropower License (OR/CA)

Published 6/17/2021  |  American Whitewater

By: Thomas O’Keefe

Earlier today the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the license transfer for the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project and issued the following statement:

FERC Approves License Transfer for Lower Klamath Hydro Project The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved the transfer of the license for the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project (Project) from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation and the states of Oregon and California, as co-licensees.

Since 2016, PacifiCorp, along with a coalition of state and federal agencies, Tribes, the States of Oregon and California, and other stakeholders, have worked together to propose surrender of the Project license, which includes a plan to decommission the four dams on the Klamath River that comprise the Project. Today’s transfer is another important step in the ongoing surrender proceeding.

Today’s order confirms that the Renewal Corporation has the ability, financially and otherwise, to undertake dam removal, and with the states, as co-licensees, the necessary legal and technical expertise required for such a huge undertaking. The surrender application is still pending before the Commission and is awaiting further environmental review as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Commission will continue to engage with all parties and stakeholders to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the surrender proceeding.

In addition to approving license transfer for purposes of dam removal, the Commission also issued Scoping Document 1 and outlined a public process for environmental review of the plan to remove the Klamath River dams. In addition to the fishery and aquatic issues the Commission committed to evaluating the recreational impacts and opportunities with dam removal including the following:

  1. Effects of altered flow regime and the conversion of reservoirs to free flowing river on whitewater boating opportunities.
  2. Effects of the removal of existing recreation facilities on recreation opportunities.
  3. Adequacy of the potential new facilities identified in the Recreation Resource Management Plan to meet future recreation needs.
  4. Effects of the future absence of project reservoirs on the availability of reservoir-related recreation.

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation proposal to address these issues is in the Recreation Facilities Plan (February 2021) and following a public comment period, the plan will be evaluated by the Commission.

American Whitewater has been working collaboratively with the Klamath River Renewal Corporation and the States of Oregon and California to better understand how whitewater boating opportunities will change following dam removal. Studies we conducted in sumer of 2020 indicate some opportunities will no longer be available (e.g. midsummer high water trips on Hell’s Corner) but new opportunities will emerge with restored flows to Big Bend and Ward’s Canyon. We are working to identify the recreational infrastructure necessary for the public to be able to experience and enjoy the restored river. We are also committed to developing a recreation plan that educates the public on the ecology of the basin, the benefits of restoration, and the cultural values of the river corridor that have been and continue to be of value to Tribes who have been leaders in the effort to restore this river.

American Whitewater will prepare detailed comments on the Recreation Facilities Plan but short comments from the whitewater boating community are always of value. Comments supporting dam removal and restoration of river health that also express appreciation for a commitment to evaluation of the issues associated with recreation will be especially helpful. To make a “quick comment” of 6000 characters or less go to the Quick Comment page <https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx> and fill out your contact information. This will generate an email with a link to submit a comment. You will need to enter docket number P-14803-001 and select it before you can enter your comment. Comments are due no later than August 19, 2021.

This post first appeared on American Whitewater.