KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The nonprofit organization working to tear down four hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath River in southern Oregon and northern California has provided its latest cost estimate for the project to federal energy regulators.
In a filing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 28, the Klamath River Renewal Corp. estimates full dam removal will cost $446 million — within the project’s $450 million budget.
KRRC formed in 2016 as part of the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement to carry out removal of the J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2 and Iron Gate dams, opening about 400 miles of upstream habit for threatened coho salmon and steelhead. But first, FERC must approve transfer of the dams’ operating license from PacifiCorp to the KRRC, which submitted its 2,300-page “Definite Plan” for razing the four dams in 2018.
Mark Bransom, KRRC executive director, said this latest filing proves they have the funding, team and expertise to get the project done.
“Our project is on track, within budget and ready to roll,” Bransom said in a statement. “Healthy rivers breathe life into the communities they touch. Dam removal and a revitalized Klamath River will enhance resiliency to strengthen the entire Klamath watershed for the future.”
The $446 million price tag is considered the “guaranteed maximum price,” including $199 million for Kiewit Infrastructure West, the project’s main contractor, and $78 million for Resource Environmental Solutions, which will head the environmental cleanup and restoration effort.
Some $50 million is earmarked as contingency funding for unanticipated costs, with the remainder covering personnel costs, planning and engineering work to date.
Funding for dam removal comes primarily from PacifiCorp ratepayers, who have contributed $200 million, and up to $250 million from California Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion statewide water bond that passed in 2014.
Built between 1911 and 1962, the lower Klamath River dams have a total generation capacity of 169 megawatts. Farmers, tribes, environmental groups and government agencies all signed on to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement in 2010 to remove the dams for fish passage.
American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group dedicated to protecting wild rivers, has stated the Klamath River restoration project is arguably one of the most significant dam removal projects in U.S. history.
They might not be the tallest dams ever removed — the tallest of the four Klamath River dams, Iron Gate, stands at 173 feet tall, 37 feet shorter than the Glines Canyon Dam on Washington’s Elwha River, which came down in 2014. Removal of two dams on Maine’s Penobscot River in 2012 and 2013 also opened more fish habitat, at 1,000 miles.
Yet the Klamath River dam removal is expected to cost more than those two projects combined. The Elwha River project came in at $324.7 million, and the Penobscot River project at $54 million.
As part of the review process, an independent board of consultants approved by the feds will review the KRRC’s latest filing and submit its own report to FERC in mid-March.
The KRRC anticipates it will begin drawing down reservoirs for dam removal in 2022, though dates are subject to change.