The other side of Klamath dam removal

The Klamath River dams, located about 30 miles from the town of Ashland, are slated for removal in 2020. This will be the largest dam removal project in the history of our nation and has attracted attention from people around the world.

For the last five years, twists and turns on this major river restoration effort have commanded regular headlines in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Sacramento Bee. The Eureka Times-Standard, located 230 miles from the Klamath dams, covers the issue approximately twice per month.

We are not aware of a single substantive news story on the Klamath dams published by the Daily Tidings in the last two years.

It concerns us that the Daily Tidings has chosen to break this media silence with a one-sided "news" story on how two rafting companies feel about this issue (see Sept. 4 article "Dam removal plans concern rafting companies"). We learn that dam removal will change rafting runs, but we don't learn how the dams have blocked fish from 300 miles of habitat for nearly a century, or how the dams cause toxic algae blooms so dangerous that hazard signs warn recreationalists not to go in the reservoirs or the river downstream.

We don't learn about the 10,000 or so Native people who live downstream of the dams and how these people are culturally, nutritionally and economically dependent on disappearing Klamath salmon. We don't learn that the Klamath was once the third largest salmon-producing river on the West Coast but now has just 10 percent of its historic salmon runs.

We don't learn about the hundreds of commercial fishing businesses who were ordered to stop fishing in 2006 because salmon returns to the Klamath were too low to allow ocean harvest from Northern Oregon to Central California. We don't learn about how these fishing families are now dependent on federal disaster relief to make ends meet.

We don't learn about the lodges and fishing businesses who must tell their guests to avoid touching water in the Klamath River because the dams' algae causes rashes and nausea and could kill small pets and children if ingested. We don't learn that algae in the reservoirs behind the dams has been documented at levels 4,000 times what the World Health Organization considers a moderate risk to human health. We don't learn that the California Water Board told the press that dam removal may be the only effective solution to the Klamath's toxic algae problem.

Yes, dam removal will change the landscape for local rafting companies and will force them to adjust their offerings. The Upper Klamath will have water for rafting during the same time frame as other free-flowing rivers in our area: winter through early summer. Six miles of currently dewatered class 3 to 5 whitewater will flow for the first time in 50 years. Best of all, the 230 miles of river downstream from JC Boyle Dam will flow cooler and cleaner all year, opening amazing new rafting, fishing and tourism opportunities for companies with the vision and insight to plan for it.

In the end, local rafting companies will always have other runs to raft, but the Hoopa, Karuk, Yurok and Klamath tribes do not have another river to fish. Ashlanders should be able to get more than one side of this issue from their local paper.

Malena Marvin is the outreach and science director for Klamath Riverkeeper and S. Craig Tucker is the Klamath Campaign coordinator for the Karuk Tribe.

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