A Win for the Southern Resident killer whales – Pact reached to remove four Klamath River dams

A Win for the Southern Resident killer whales – Pact reached to remove four Klamath River dams







Contact: Shari Tarantino, President,

Orca Conservancy / (206) 379-0331


April 7, 2016

The U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, PacificCorp, and the states of Oregon and California signed an agreement on Wednesday, April 6 that, following a process administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is expected to remove four dams on the Klamath River by 2020, amounting to one of the largest river restoration efforts in the nation.

State and federal officials also signed a new, separate agreement with irrigation interests and other parties known as the 2016 Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA). This agreement will help Klamath Basin irrigators avoid potentially adverse financial and regulatory impacts associated with the return of fish runs to the Upper Klamath Basin, which are anticipated after dams are removed.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the signing ceremony took place at the mouth of the Klamath River on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath. California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, and President and CEO of Pacific Power Stefan Bird participated in the event, along with Congressman Jared Huffman, tribes, water users and non-governmental organizations from the Klamath Basin community.

Orca Conservancy has continued to advocate for the endangered Southern Resident killer whales (SRKWs) since 1996, and was a successful litigant in the historic U.S. District Court case that listed the population as ‘Endangered’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in November 2005. “The great thing about the ESA is ‘citizen oversight’, which the Marine Mammal Protection Act does not give. This is why Orca Conservancy fought so hard for that listing – it gives citizens the right to bring this population into the discussion, especially when they need the protection that only the ESA can give,” explains Shari Tarantino, President of the Seattle-based Orca Conservancy.

“We’ve been saying all along of the importance of keeping the SRKWs fed, and how the Klamath River salmon stocks are a mid-point link between the Columbia River and the Sacramento River. Yesterday was a HUGE victory for this critically endangered population, and it puts all of us working towards their recovery one step closer to making that a reality”, she said.

Orca Conservancy, along with 17 national and international organizations stood very publicly in support of broad-based efforts to bring the Klamath dams down, and has been working closely with Konrad Fisher, the Executive Director of the Klamath Riverkeeper. “Klamath River Dam removal will open more than 400 miles of historic fish habitat, reduce toxic algae levels, improve the regional tourism and fishing industries, and increase access to healthy food sources for local communities. Dam removal is also less costly than upgrades that would be required by the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act”, said Konrad Fisher. He continued, “In the broad scheme of things, we realized that a free-flowing Klamath means 81% more salmon, and that means an abundance of salmon for everyone — including this critically endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales. We are thrilled to have Orca Conservancy on-board with this historic effort.”

PacifiCorp has offered to pay the first $200 million of the project, with the State of California committing an additional $250 million if needed to finish the job.  No federal funds will be used. PacifiCorp will transfer ownership of four Klamath River dams to a nonprofit corporation recently created in California, which will petition the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval to tear them down. Two others will be transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which will continue operating them without raising prices for farmers and ranchers who irrigate their fields.

We celebrate a milestone for healthy rivers. After a decade-long grassroots campaign led by tribal members from the Klamath River, and against the greatest odds we now have a signed agreement that paves the way for a free flowing Klamath River by 2020.

“There is still much left to be done, and we welcome the opportunity to keep the Southern Resident killer whales in the discussion”, Shari Tarantino said.

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