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For the Record: There are Numerous Negative Impacts of Klamath Dam Removal

Reprint: Klamath Irrigation District


In recent meetings with dam removal advocates, government officials, and Klamath Reclamation Project district managers, a great deal of frustration has been expressed with the effects of dam removal. Specifically, the promise of an agricultural benefit in the Klamath Reclamation Project from dam removal as experts had previously informed these managers that flows in the Klamath River could be reduced with dam removal as water quality conditions would be better, that disease would become less influenced by the regulated flows of water in the Klamath River, and anticipated more natural C. Shasta parasite conditions.

In several meetings, individuals who had sat face-to-face with the dam removal advocates and government officials 10+ years ago were told these past few weeks that reduced flows and benefits to the Klamath Reclamation Project will not be a reality.

Despite numerous objections by our members (actually owners as we are a special government district operated with their funds), Klamath Irrigation District signed on to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The District took a position of neutrality on dam removal.

In the KBRA, on page 54 – which many people believe was the security of water for the Klamath Reclamation Project the words

“establishing an applicable DIVERSION related to
irrigation …including a range for the March to October period from 330,000
to 385,000 acre-feet, which would at some time increase to 340,000 to 385,000
acre-feet; then adding a quantity equal to the applicable Refuge Allocation”

fall silent on the ears, hearts, and heads of those who accepted the position of neutrality.

The amount of water being discussed today and in the forseable future, on average, is less than 200,000 acre-feet per year with a bottom range of 49,000 acre-feet modeled for years like 2021 and 2022, which would only meet the needs of Van Brimmer Ditch Company and not allow for the over 267,000 acre-feet of water that naturally evaporated from Lower Klamath Lake in predevelopment conditions to be utilized by water right holders, nor retained above Keno. The dam removal advocates forget the promise of no less than 330,000 acre-feet each and every year that the advocates of the KBRA believed was going to occur.

Efforts by the irrigation district managers to increase these unacceptable amounts by requesting the reduction of flows over Keno by 150 cfs (which in dry years is still more than the natural state would have allowed) were heavily resisted by the representatives who had previously been acceptable to the terms of the KBRA. It was hinted that if Reclamation made such a Proposed Action, it would result in a jeopardy opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Thus, Reclamation is not anticipated to change the Klamath Reclamation Project Proposed Action in the next few days as we (the applicants) requested.

When the KBRA failed, attempts to secure the interests of numerous stakeholders were made by entering into the 2016 Amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement
Agreement (KHSA)
and the Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA).
These agreements included no additional burdens on the Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators for the operation, maintenance, and updates to the Keno Dam, fish screen funding and installations for points of diversions where threatened or endangered fish could be present,
exploration of ways to reduce power rates (the Project had previously enjoyed the benefit of at-cost electricity to run recirculation pumps to be more efficient with the water…Oregon irrigators in the Klamath Project currently pay double to triple what their associates in the same market pay; if you’re a California irrigator, the electricity cost is now triple to quadruple the rate
within the same market.)

To date, few promises by dam removal advocates and government agencies have been kept.

What was acceptable in 2010 to maintain fisheries by dam removal advocates is no longer acceptable with the dams being removed. “Silence! We despise you!” (in the voice of Akmed the dead terrorist goes through my mind as I listen to the no response)

The water that naturally evaporated from Lower Klamath Lake (no less than 267,000 acre-feet) is not even the average (nor median) of the water returned to the former lakes and
marshlands. Deafening Silence?

The release of a heavily National Marine Fisheries Service influenced, and predetermined Proposed Action by Reclamation is anticipated to be released in the coming days.

Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators should anticipate shortages to irrigation demand each and every year through 2029, when this Proposed Action may expire, and perhaps the science
will show that hatchery fish can survive in the Klamath River as all the native fish of this year’s class and potentially the next ten years will be significantly negatively affected.

How much more damage is currently occurring to the ecosystem with dam removal killing numerous year classes of fish and thousands of animals as compared with the Klamath Reclamation Project just utilizing the water that would have naturally evaporated off of Lower Klamath Lake in dry years?


Article 1, Section 1 of the Klamath Water Users Association of 1905 states,

“The territory within the land to be irrigated are situated to be known as the Klamath Irrigation District, includes all lands within the boundaries described as follows: Such portion of Klamath County, Oregon and Modoc and Siskiyou Counties, California as may be included in the Government Reclamation Project and surveyed and outlined and finally approved by the Secretary of the Interior and known as the Klamath River Project.”

The Secretary of the Interior approved the applicant’s (Klamath Irrigation District’s founders) original proposed action through numerous contracts with the Klamath Water Users Association of 1905, irrigation districts, and individual water users within the boundaries of the Klamath Irrigation District between 1905 and 1978.

Klamath Irrigation District is a special government district formed under Oregon Revised Statute 545 and meets the definition of “applicant” as described in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 50, §451.

The District is the legal successor and party to the discrete action of the original applicant(s). The District assumed the original applicant contracts and legal responsibilities described in 43 USC, Chapter 12, Oregon State law as per Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 and Oregon Revised Statute 545.

Item #2 in the 6 November 1905 contract with Reclamation limits applicant status in the Klamath Reclamation Project to membership with the Klamath Water Users Association; thus, Klamath Irrigation District, as the legal successor to the Klamath Water Users Association of 1905, holds applicant status.

The District is an “applicant” as the District holds 54 original excess-land trust deeds, 674 original water-right contracts accepted by the federal government, various repayment contracts, and continues to pay annual costs for the operation and maintenance of the Link River Dam built under the Klamath Reclamation Project authorities under the Reclamation Act of 1902.

The District has repeatedly requested the transfer of title of the infrastructure, which the District paid for in full on 4 May 1965. The contracts entered into by applicants between 1905 and 1918 relied upon Reclamation Director F. H. Newell’s representation to applicants that the title of the project would be turned over to Klamath Irrigation District. The transfer of title was a significant discussion point in the development of Reclamation Contract 14-06-200-3784, executed in 1954.

Klamath Irrigation District holds water rights in trust with the State of Oregon under the Amended and Corrected Findings of Fact in the Klamath River Adjudication outside the authority of the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation activities affect the District’s ability to perform its contractual and legal duties. In 1995 and 1996, Reclamation recognized PacifiCorps as an applicant in reinitiation of consultation without any new agreement or facilities. Following this logic, Klamath Irrigation District is applicant status.

Reclamation continues to hold and pontificate that it has the authority to authorize or deny Klamath Irrigation District the ability to perform its legal and contractual duties. The applicant status test provided in CFR 50 402.02 establishes an applicant as “who requires formal authorization from a federal agency.”

See Page 2-12, Section E of the Endangered Species Consultation Handbook.

“Users (of public resources) who are party to a discrete action (i.e. where they are already the successful bidder on a timber sale that becomes subject of later consultation or reinitiation when a new species is listed or new critical habitat is designated) may participate as applicants in the Section 7 process.”

As an applicant, Klamath Irrigation District’s submission of Proposed Action for modeling was not completed, likely due to completing demands by NMFS and USFWS models. Other districts requests for modeling adjustments were COMPLETED, and not accepted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, so therefore the applicant’s Proposed Actions are not being considered by the Action Agency despite our status.

At worst, the Bureau of Reclamation should include the applicant’s Proposed Action in their alternative assessments and explain why these Proposed Actions were not the preferred Proposed Action by the action agency. We are certain that this is not occurring.


Jerome P. Churchill was an investor in power activities and White City development. He served as a director of the Klamath Water Users Association of 1905 (K.I.D.’s origins) from 1905 to 1906. Churchill hired a very young 23-year-old John Christie Boyle in 1910 upon graduating from the engineering department at the University of Berkley as a field surveyor. Churchill was no longer a director of the Water Users Association by the time Boyle was hired, nor when he took charge of the Ward’s Canyon Project in 1916.

On 24 February 1917, Klamath Irrigation District took objection to the sales of the Keno and Ankeny Canals adjacent to the Link River, which were previously titled to members of the Klamath Water Users Association or paid for with water user-provided funds. This sale was directly related to the contract with COPCO to develop the Link River Dam. Through 20 November 1920, members of the Klamath Irrigation District disrupted, delayed, and objected to the private development of this facility on the Link River.

Conflict on private dam development continued into the 1950s. The District was one of the original members of the Klamath Water Users Protective Association, formed on 22 June 1953 (This is the organization that is now referred to as KWUA). The key need for the KWUA of 1953 was to interact with COPCO. On 11 August 1955, the KWUA met with Mr. Boyle, request #6 (in line with K.I.D.’s 1917 position) requested that at the end of a 50-year contract, the title of the Link River Dam will transfer to the United States or its successors. Mr. Boyle refused.

After much debate and discussion with numerous parties, Klamath Irrigation District supported the Klamath River Compact (see Oregon Revised Statute 542.620), for which the generation of hydroelectric power was an acceptable use of water, subordinate to irrigation use.

Our vault is filled with numerous boxes of correspondence and litigation relative to dam construction, power rates, and impacts to irrigation between 1917 and 1977. Although the Salt Caves Dam proposal in the 1980s proved very controversial, our vault appears to be silent on the issue.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, as dam removal advocates began discussing issues and getting U.S. Congressional attention, Klamath Irrigation District appears to have taken mild interest in dam removal discussions.

The 2005-2015 period entered an age of disagreement between the patrons of the District. Several members of the district wanted to believe the KBRA would reverse the negative impact on our communities and that aggressive neutrality on dam removal would allow them and their posterity liberty to pursue happiness as agricultural producers. Many others, some of whom read the entire KBRA, had serious concerns and objected. In 2010, the District Board of Directors signed onto the KBRA; by 2016, the conflict within the District on this issue and several other issues resulted in a number of events that paralyzed this body’s ability to perform its duties.

Read Klamath Irrigation District’s comment letter to Draft EIR/Environmental Impact Statement to FERC/Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding Klamath River Hydroelectric dam destruction 4/18/22. “KID requests FERC decline to approve a Final EIS until the document reflects the “hard look” required by the law, based on accurate and complete historical data. KID also requests FERC consult with KID in order to ensure that impacts to the irrigators are adequately treated in the document so the public will know the full potential aftermath of dam removal.”

Dams have been the source of conflict for the District since 1917.

Bob Wynne provides “The View From Here 7 Feb 2024

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