Why One Gigantic Dam Is Getting Dismantled In California

The Klamath River Basin dam is being dismantled to improve water quality, allow more salmon to thrive in the river, and ensure the survival of the Yurok Native American tribe.

By Ryan Clancey | Published

The largest river dam in the US is getting remodeled. The government has approved a plan to take out the dam and restore the Klamath River basin, which covers California and Oregon.

The Federal government has approved the plan to remove four different dams along the Klamath River. They are being removed to increase the area for salmon to grow and live and also to improve the overall water quality. This approval has taken over a decade for the Yurok tribe native to the river basin to push through the government. They have stated that if the salmon can no longer survive in the river, there is a high chance that their tribe will face extinction.

The Yurok tribe is based at the Klamath River’s most significant tributary. It is there where they have spent years trying to restore the levels of salmon they need to survive. Some species of salmon are facing the prospect of extinction due to the dams. They are blocking their migration, and they cannot swim downstream to the sea. Unfortunately, that is not all the salmon face with global warming changing aspects of their ecosystem like warming the river’s waters.

The salmon that are produced in the Klamath River have to swim the river twice in their lives, one in the summer, they swim to the ocean, and the other in the autumn, when they return as adults. Last year, the Yurok tribe lost 80-90% of the young fish due to the dams. Due to this, a high proportion of the Yurok tribe faces starvation due to the small amount of salmon left.

Many of the workers that will be removing the dams will be from the Yurok tribe, who were involved in the river restoration from the beginning. It is essential to realize that as humans, we have done a lot of damage to the earth, and if there is a way to reverse that damage, then it should be taken. It is our responsibility to do so.

When the restoration project is complete, it will have restored the habitat around the Klamath River by 1,000%, which shows how important this project is.

The company that owns the numerous dams on the Klamath River, PacifiCorp, is also behind their removal. Restoring all four dams will cost the company more than removing them. The dams provide no irrigation water and very little hydropower to the area. Once removed, they can be replaced with a more efficient type of environmentally-friendly energy. Maybe one that doesn’t wreak havoc on the ecosystem around them.

There are some opponents to the removal of the dams. It is vital for firefighters as the dams provide quick water pickup. Also, property prices are dropping from the dam removal announcement as waterfront properties will no longer be near water after emptying the reservoir.

Even with the negative impacts that the dam removal will have on the surrounding area, the good still outweighs the bad. The construction work on these dams will start as early as 2023 and will extend into 2024 and beyond. Congratulation to the Yurok tribe; it is rare the little guys win.