The Klamath Cheer

I’ve seen the Klamath River but have never had the chance to fish it (yet). I remembered it recently when the good news filtered through abominable stews of economic, political, and environmental turmoil. Four dams on northern California’s Klamath River would be taken down, allowing restoration for endangered salmon habitat. More than 300 miles (483 kilometers) of free-flowing river would be opened up by 2024 to benefit the salmon that had been closed off from their spawning grounds. Environmentalists, nature lovers, and especially the several tribes of Native Americans whose culture has been twined inextricably with the fish have reason to rejoice.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted on and approved what would be the world’s largest dam demolition and river restoration project in history on 17 November 2022.

Above photo by Flaccus (The Associated Press), the Iron Gate Dam, Klamath River, one of four aging hydro-structures to be removed.

Granted, the decision to remove the dams was business based. Relicensing, with the cost of upgrades, would be prohibitive. But the cost for the owners, PacifiCorp, would be capped at $200 million, assisted by another $250 million from a California water bond (approved). All in all, this looks like a victory for deserving native people, for endangered salmon, and for anyone interested in survival in the region and beyond.

I tried the salmon (landlocked) run this fall, but the water was too low.

Eventually the power supply once furnished by the dams (diminished as it was) will be replaced by renewable energy sources (wind and sun) and by “energy efficiency savings.” One can only hope that construction of new energy sites does not bring unforeseen ecological damage (wishful thinking?). Anyway, demolition of the dams within the Klamath watershed will create the largest reopening of its kind by human beings, and I’m pleased for that. I was tired of hearing all the mostly rotten media reports of late and think it’s time for a bottle of the best beer in the house. Hey, do we have any brew from Klamath Basin?

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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22 Responses to The Klamath Cheer

  1. darrelln09 says:

    The beer looks very tasty. The fishing will be great. So what will happen on a calm night? Will the power customers need to buy candles?

    • Darrell, I think that those dams generate only about 2-percent of the regional power, something on that order, so other sources will continue to work. Candles would be nice, though, after an outing on the river, with a couple of those tasty looking brews, as well. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Brent says:

    The removals of obsolete dams is a nice trend. I’m always surprised how few long, free-flowing stretches of river are left in the country, but I think they’re on the increase– especially on smaller rivers that have little hydropower potential. (The national park has also been removing relict dams on Ohio’s Cuyahoga River.)

    • It’s good to hear that those Ohio relics are getting booted & that the park is getting recognized for its significance. Locally, we’ll see whether or not the Springville dam on the Cattaraugus will come down.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    You’re right, Walter, good news is a rare commodity lately (I got a dose of it in Pennsylvania, when the midterms seemingly struck a blow against the forces of evil in this very rural state). It would be amazing to see migratory fish return to every one of their natal waters. I had read once, and I can’t confirm the veracity of the claim, that steelhead were found as far south as the present day Los Angeles area. Still, a step in the right direction.

    • Bob, I think I read that as well– steelhead runs as far south as the LA region. Must have been something… I thought of folks like you & Brent & other clear-headed dwellers of the western PA woodlands when a bit of light was shed there at the midterms. We’ll take any good news we can find these days.

    • AJ Morris says:

      it’s my understanding that that is correct. Chinook salmon as well…

      Reducing energy usage is as critical as finding clean renewable sources – a relatively small effort that often get brushed aside.

      I wish I had good news to report from Idaho, but “Idaho” kinda says it all… I’m having to live vicariously through my friends elsewhere. Be well everyone.

      • Thanks AJ! Yeah, I believe Robert Behnke & probably others talked about the trout & salmon distribution down the coast back in the day. And yes (wholeheartedly) to your comment on the overlooked need for our reduction of energy usage. As for home in Idaho, I think I know where you’re coming from. A beautiful place, but the politics… Idaho is not alone.

  4. Harnessing renewal energy to massive extents will have to happen soon, in order to slow down climate change’s onslaught.

  5. plaidcamper says:

    Thanks for sharing a little brightness today, Walt! God knows, the pendulum has to swing at some point back to a more reasoned and conservation/restoration minded stance, and maybe there are signs of positive change out there, this being one? As an almost optimist, I’m going to say yes, and raise a glass. Beervana!

    • Thanks Adam! And thanks to good beer that helps keep a glimmer of hope & good news alive. Although I frequently despair, every now & then I’ll raise a glass with guarded optimism in the real or virtual company of those who care.

  6. UB says:

    Good news seems to come in trickles and the discouraging news seems to overwhelm us. But we must keep the nose to the grind-stone I suppose in order to get those trickles to add up to a tributary. Good to hear of the re-connection of the river RTR! On a minor note – the ATVers have gotten a trail expansion approved up on top of the mountain along route 44 but will not get a trail down Slate Run Road (down to Manor Fork). The DCNR should be making an announcement if they haven’t already. Thanks for the report RTR! UB

    • Well, I’m glad to hear that some of the ATV plan has been thwarted. Motorheads are getting more than they deserve. We’ll guide each trickle of good news coming at us toward that tributary of worthiness. Thanks, UB, for helping some of us keep our noses to the grindstone!

      • UB says:

        As you know RTR, it was the work of the many that could not be ignored and I feel that my contribution is only a drop of water in that ocean. But as long as people will listen and get inspired, to the point of becoming involved, then maybe we have a chance to prevent other less worthy efforts that attack our natural resources. There are so many areas worthy, and my selfish scope is narrow. I hope others get inspired as those that have been fighting the fight are ‘aging out’. I hope others are stepping in because the threats never seem to diminish. Hearing of dams being removed and waterways restored is good to hear (as I use electricity to write this reply 😉 – oh the irony). Have closed the place up for the season and am staying in Clarion tonight. Part way back, part way to go tomorrow – home! UB

  7. UB, your work is appreciated by many. Let us hope that more & more tuned-in people join the good fight as we veterans “age away.” You’re right, the threats do not diminish. Have a restful evening there in Clarion, and a safe trip farther on.

  8. Obie. says:

    Great writeup! I was just reading the news about the Klamath dam removals this morning, I look forward to seeing the positive impacts on fishing and ecosystem health.

  9. tiostib says:

    Wonderful news from a river system that has given me many fishing pleasures. If you’re ever in the neighborhood and feel like floating a fly, let me know. I’m particularly fond of the Wood and Williamson Rivers which flow into Klamath Lake and offer a variety of fishing opportunities.

    Wishing you and yours a peaceful and happy thanksgiving.

    • Thanks so much, Tio. I’m sure that river reclamation will be great for fish, for wildlife and for people dependent on the Klamath, not to mention those, like ourselves, who’ve enjoyed the angling there. It’s great that you have experience with those rivers of the region. I have sampled only the Williamson & tributaries, so far, but if I return there (and I’d love to) I will let you know, and I appreciate that invitation. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  10. Jet Eliot says:

    Great news you share here, Walt, thank you. It’s been many years since I visited the Klamath region, this post was a nice reminder of that beautiful place on earth…about to get more beautiful. Cheers to you and your family.

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