Dam removal leaves need for new recreation sites

— Published with Permission of —

The Klamath River Renewal Corp., the nonprofit charged with coordinating the removal for four hydro-electric dams on the Klamath River, is seeking public comment on new recreation sites along the river — after the dams are out.

The KRRC notes that reservoirs such as Topsy, behind the J.C. Boyle dam, will become a river, as will the Copco Reservoir, once water levels are lowered.

That will leave current recreation sites high and dry, but create more opportunity for riverside sites. The KRRC is seeking comments by Wednesday, May 30, on site proposals, but more comments will likely be taken after a draft plan is written. The comments will be rolled into a larger document to be present to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this summer.

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Some of the land that is now under reservoir water owned by PacifiCorp — the utility that owns the dams — will be turned over to the states and may, in turn, be handed over to the counties for development of recreation sites and boat launches.

Anna Murveit, KRRC outreach and communication official, and others are having Skype calls with tourism officials, tribal members and recreational outfitters who use the river, soliciting comments on what to do with the land that will be left after the reservoirs are drained.

“We want to hear their ideas on what would be the best locations for boat launches, take out spots and campgrounds among other things,” Murveit said. “We want to prioritize those sites and draw up selection criteria.”

The KRRC recreation group is to submit its draft plan by July 1.

All of this is dependent on FERC approving the license transfer of the four dams from PacifiCorp to the renewal corporation and then the decommissioning of the dams for removal. It’s part of the 2016 Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Funding for the project comes from PacifiCorp customer surcharge which totals $200 million, plus California Proposition 1 which has set aside $250 million. The timeline calls for decommissioning to start in 2021 at the earliest.

“The news of the day is that KRRC hopes to contract with local firms to do: Native seed collection; invasive exotic vegetation eradication; development of vegetation test plots; nursery plant propagation and groundwater monitoring,” Murveit said.

“These opportunities are for firms to contract with KRRC, not direct hires through the KRRC. We are working on information to share on these RFPs (requests for proposals) and may have it in the next couple of weeks.”

Cost estimates are being developed and will be part of the July 1 plan submission.

“We’re trying to ensure as many local jobs go to the local communities,” she said.

Early last week, KRRC held a Skype call with Discover Klamath, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce and Siskiyou County economic development leaders on recreational site locations. (A list of current and proposed sites and amenities is posted in PDF format on the Herald and News website alongside this story).

Officials noted that while the counties have a master plan for tourism, it is too early speculate what recreational sites might prove best once the water is drawn down.

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