liaison breaks down dam removal -
KRRC community liaison to
strengthen ties -
Removal of four dams along the Klamath River — J.C. Boyle,
Copco 1 and 2, and Iron Gate Dam — by non-profit Klamath
River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), will need to be paired
with a long-term agreement in order to solve long-term water
quality issues for the Klamath River.
is, both during and after dam removal, according to Dave
Meurer, newly appointed community liaison for KRRC for
Klamath, Siskiyou and Humboldt counties.
removal is slated to start as early as 2020, pending
approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),
according to Meurer, and he confirmed it’s likely that fish
could die as sediment flows downstream.
is confident that the dams will be removed, looking at past
backing by the states of Oregon and California, and
PacifiCorp, the owner of the hydroelectric dams, as well as
the Departments of Interior and Commerce.
did not believe this was happening and that dam removal was
a certainty, I would not have recently quit my job and
joined this organization,” Meurer said. “I am highly
convinced that this is moving forward.”
still needs to sign off on the project, Meurer said.
has hired Los Angeles-based AECOM, which Meurer called a
“gargantuan” firm known world-wide for dam removal.
short-term, it’s going to hammer the river pretty hard,”
Meurer said. “There’s going to be a lot of sediment moving
through the system that is not friendly to fish. But all the
fishery’s biologists and agencies that weighed in on this
said this would be a short-term hit for a very long-term
would be an unavoidable impact,” Meurer added. “But they’re
going to try to do this sediment release during the time
that is going to be least damaging to the fishery. So we are
going to be aiming for that very specific window precisely
to minimize, avoid as much as possible, impacts to key
species of fish.”
fish are not prospering, then everybody pays a price, Meurer
still see the Basin farmers being in a highly vulnerable
position from a regulatory and legal point of view because
of fish Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues, water quality
issues. So this attempt by KRRC to restore the river,
restore the fishery is also an attempt to bring long-term
stability and prosperity to the region, and that includes
the ag economy.
been lurching from ESA crisis to ESA crisis for too long and
I understand there are concerns people have about is the
water too impaired.”
Anticipated water quality issues for the Klamath River are
what make this project trickier than other dam removal
projects, according to Meurer.
this case, we have some really difficult water quality
problems,” Meurer said. “There are already enormous efforts
underway to improve water quality and there are a lot of
removal; it will take care of the blue green algae issue,”
he emphasized. “It will make a difference in C. Shasta
disease. The dam removal piece doesn’t complete the water
quality requirements that are going to be needed to get the
Klamath from being a sick patient back into being healthy.”
said KRRC officials are aware that dam removal in and of
itself is not a complete solution but a necessary step in
process to address concerns, both short and longterm.
“(KRRC) … they’re fully cognizant that they’re has to be a
phase II or else this would really not be successful,”
removal in and of itself does not really resolve some really
key water quality issues. There will have to be some other
agreement going forward,” Meurer added. “There will have to
be something, probably at the congressional level that will
said KRRC echoes the belief that more beyond dam removal is
needed as a long-term solution.
“Although this is a very large and ambitious program, it is
not unprecedented to perform a dam removal and then see a
positive response from the fishery,” Meurer said.
detailed that dam removal, for which there hasn’t been a
determined start date, will be a slow and carefully
controlled draining process that would likely take place in
the months of January and February. Meurer said he couldn’t
specify a year but said, following the “draw down” of water
from the dam.
estimated 15-20 million cubic yards of “very fine” sediment
could wash down the river and into the Pacific Ocean,
according to Meurer.
“There’s a lot of sediment built up behind the dams and when
they start start drawing down the dams, that sediment is
going to be transported downstream,” Meurer said.
said that left-over sediment would make up the riverbank,
which would return to a naturally vegetative state.
said KRRC believes any concerns about the contents of the
sediment are diminished by a letter the non-profit received
from the Environmental Protection Agency.
trajectory we’re on right now is not good,” Meurer said, in
comparison. We are very close to extinction frankly on
Spring Chinook and numbers are down on the fall run 10
percent of historic numbers. The trajectory has to change,
and that is the goal of this project.
Benefits of dam removal will make an impact as well,
according to Meurer.
“You’re going to get rid of that ongoing seasonal toxic
algae bloom that happens behind some reservoirs,” Meurer
said. “That’s a chronic issue. That water becomes dangerous,
not just for fish, but for people, and you don’t want to let
your dog jump in the river either.”
Admittedly not a biologist or fisheries expert, Meurer said
ample research backs the need for dam removal.
enormous amount of work has gone into researching this
before proceeding and there is a pretty deep scientific
consensus that you can make a lot of difference with this
project,” Meurer said. “And it begins with the work that
KRRC is performing.”
KRRC community liaison to strengthen ties
Dave Meurer, recently named as community liaison for non-profit
Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), recalled Wednesday
what it was like to watch the water shutoffs of 2001 unfold in
the Klamath Basin.
At the time, Meurer was serving as legislative staff for
California Congressman Wally Herger, a position he held for more
than 20 years. Meurer will now serve as a point person for
communities in Klamath, Siskiyou, and Humboldt counties on the
more than $450 million removal of four Klamath River dams.
“I saw first-hand, I was up there meeting with constituents,
attending hearings, attending rallies and just saw the
incredible amount of devastation that brought to that regional
economy,” Meurer said in a phone interview Wednesday.
“That was a crushing blow and there was a mad scramble to get
the water turned back on,” Meurer added.
Meurer continued to follow water conflicts in the Basin
following the shutoffs. He recently left a longtime position to
serve as the KRRC's community liaison to ensure the community is
made aware of all that's involved in the process to remove the
“I will be traveling extensively throughout Southern Oregon and
Northern California,” Meurer said. “If I can play some kind of
constructive role here, I would like to do so.”
Meurer comes to the position having spent years as a legislative
and senatorial staffer for both U.S. Rep. Herger and Sen. Ted
Gaines,R-El Dorado Hills. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts
degree from California State University in political science and
With roots in Corning, Chico and Red Bluff, Calif., Meurer
currently calls Redding home, and may eventually work remotely
in the Basin, though nothing has been finalized.
He's logging miles this week between tribal consultation
meetings with FERC, which is holding a public meeting at 10 a.m.
Thursday in Chiloquin, with intervenors, including the Klamath
Although Meurer's schedule doesn't allow him to be present at
the meeting Thursday, Meurer said two KRRC board members will be
on-hand at the meeting, including former Oregon Gov. Ted
Kulongoski, a Democrat.
While much of Meurer's work has been in California, Meurer said
he's familiar with Klamath Water User's Association and worked
with Scott White, current executive director, and former
executive director Greg Addington.
“I want to strengthen those ties and I want to get more deeply
involved with Klamath County,” he said.
“I'm going to try to make myself available, either regularly
attending meetings of the (Siskiyou) Board of Supervisors,
(Klamath County) board of commissioners up in Oregon, various
invitations to various stakeholder groups, but also just
community folks who are interested in what's going on. I'll be
interacting with the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) and
the chambers of commerce. There are a lot of interested parties
and I am going to try to be making the rounds on a very regular
Impacts of dam removal on native fish
From Klamath River Renewal
"What are the negative impacts of this project to native fish?
Dam removal and the release of sediments will kill all the
■ The impacts from dam removal on lower river salmonids
(particularly sediment impacts) would be short-term, and would
last 1-2 years, with populations recovered from those sediment
impacts by 5 years.
■ Reservoir species are not expected to survive in the colder
river waters post dam removal.
■ Dam removal and the release of sediments would unavoidably
impact fish, particularly in the first year. To mitigate the
concern, the Detailed Plan for dam removal would draw down the
three reservoirs in January and February of 2020 when salmon are
most sparse in the main-stem Klamath River and are primarily
present downstream, in tributaries and the ocean.
■The studies project the following impacts in the first year
after dam removal under low-flow or worst-case conditions:
■ An 8 percent basin-wide mortality of fall-run Chinook salmon
■ Negligible impacts on spring-run adult and juvenile Chinook
■ An 8 percent basin-wide mortality for juvenile coho salmon and
less than 1 percent for adult coho salmon,
■ Basin-wide mortality for adult and juvenile steelhead of about
28 percent and 19 percent, respectively, under worst-case,
low-flow conditions. Mortality for steelhead would be about 14
percent for both adults and juveniles under more normal flow
■ The studies further project that salmon and steelhead
populations would recover to pre-dam removal levels in 1-2 years
and increase in subsequent years. Fall Chinook productions would
increase about 80 percent following dam removal. Harvest of
these fish would increase about 47 percent in the ocean, 55
percent for tribes, and 9 percent for in-river sport fisheries.
are tons of sediments behind the dams and they are toxic. What
will happen when these sediments are released?"
Accumulated sediment within the reservoir has been tested and no
contaminants have been detected in violation of human health or
drinking water standards. Of the approximately 15 million cubic
yards of sediment behind the four dams, between 5 and 9 million
cubic yards will erode downstream soon after dam removal and the
remainder will remain behind, effectively becoming soil that
would be replanted with native vegetation.
"Sediment delivery post dam removal will have negative impacts.
How much sediment is behind the dams and how will it move
There will be approximately 15 million cubic yards behind the
dams by 2020. About 5 to 9 million cubic yards of sediment (36
percent to 57 percent of the total, depending on flow conditions
during dam removal) will travel downstream soon after dam
removal and the remainder will become soil that will be
replanted with native vegetation.
Of the sediments that travel downstream, about 85 percent will
be silt and clay that will be suspended in winter and spring
flows and carried down to the Pacific Ocean within months after
dam removal. The other 15 percent will be sand and gravel that
will be transported through the river system over years or
decades depending on flow conditions. Modeling estimates about
18 inches of coarser sediment will be deposited along a
five-mile reach downstream of Iron Gate dam soon after dam
removal. Deposits will be progressively thinner further
downstream, becoming less than three inches thick about 10 miles
downstream of Iron Gate dam.
KRRC is undertaking further engineering and hydraulic studies to
assure a comprehensive understanding of sediment transport,
subject to public comment and then review by FERC and other
The States and FERC will evaluate impacts from this sediment and
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