The River Is Essentially Dead, As Is Everything In It

By Katy Grimes,

This is the first article in a series about the Klamath Dam Removal project in Siskiyou County. To read the full article, click here. Photo credit below.

The removal of dams along the Klamath River in Siskiyou County, Northern California was sold as necessary to save salmon – specifically, "to restore habitat for endangered fish."

The dams are part of the Klamath project, a series of seven dams built in the 1910's and 1920's in the Klamath Basin to bring electricity and agricultural water mitigation for Southern Oregon and Northern California, the Globe reported in 2020. However, in recent years, concerns over the dams' effect on the wildlife and fishing industry have been raised, especially regarding claims of fish facing extinction because [of] the dams.

Governor Newsom implored [Warren] Buffett to back the demolition project to save the salmon populations that Native American tribes in the area rely on. "The river is sick, and the Klamath Basin tribes are suffering," said Newsom in his letter. "The Klamath dam removals are a shining example of what we can accomplish when we act according to our values." 

Many tribes also issued a joint letter with Governor Newsom in support of  the dams destruction.


"Drawdown of three reservoirs on the Klamath River is well underway, and this step in the dam removal process has already dramatically altered the landscape along the river in Southern Oregon and far Northern California," reported. "Iron Gate, the lowest of the three remaining dams, was
first breached on Jan. 9, followed by J.C. Boyle on Jan. 16. On Jan. 23, a concrete plug in the tunnel at the base of Copco 1 was blasted away. The reservoirs drained swiftly, leaving behind vast expanses of fissured mud the color and consistency of chocolate cake batter. The Klamath River is winding through the naked landscape, finding its new shape."

"Dam removal is expected to improve the health of the Klamath River, the route that Chinook salmon and endangered coho salmon take from the Pacific Ocean to their upstream spawning grounds, and from where the young fish return to the sea."

It sounded good on paper – at least it did to the bureaucrats agitating for it.

But according to local officials, "it's an environmental disaster."

"I've been around natural disasters all of my life, and I've never seen anything like this," Siskiyou County Supervisor Ray Haupt recently told the Globe. "The river is essentially dead, as is everything in it."  

*Above, photo of rancid water coming out of Iron Gate Dam. (Photo: Siskiyou Co. Sup. Ray Haupt)