OPINION: The Klamath River, A Dam Shame

cover photo: COPCO 1, 1.26.24 credit:Jay Martin
reprint: editorial printed 2/11/24

 Dear State Legislators: 

The letter to the editor below was written by my good friend, Carol Miller, who is an excellent writer.  She’s right on target about the tragedy of the Klamath River Dam system.

Although she doesn’t quote any statistics, her facts are correct and may be useful to you as you stand for freedom and common sense.

Linda Middlekauff

Roseburg, OR

The Klamath River, A Dam Shame

The environmental devastation occurring due to the Klamath River dams being breached is appalling. If anyone but “environmentalists” did what Klamath River Renewal Corporation is doing, they would be fined out of existence.

Silt being released all at once from behind the breached dams is most certainly degrading the salmon spawning grounds downstream. Years ago, a Pacific Power employee told me they were ordered to quit lifting their gates annually to release sediment behind the Umpqua dams for fear it would adversely affect spawning. In addition, ODOT’s sanding on snowy highways along rivers has been reduced for fear that sand washing into the river will clog spawning grounds. Yet releasing a 100 years’ of sediment accumulated behind four Klamath dams all at once is not supposed to be a problem for spawning salmon?

Breaching the Klamath dams resulted in 0 % oxygen levels downstream for nearly 24 hours. How could this have killed only non-native fish as claimed? No living creatures of any type can survive without oxygen for that long.  Because the insects, snails, crawdads, fish, etc. have died they will rot, which further increases the toxic state of the river.

The riverbanks are even worse. The rapidly exposed river bottom is a cesspool of dying creatures. Deer and other animals, trying to drink from the river like they always have, are drowning in deep mud. It will be years before the exposed river bottom will be anything but an ugly wasteland. The riparian area that developed around the reservoirs will die from lack of water. Plans to plant native seeds are laudable, but just like in any garden, weeds and invasive species will flourish unless actively eradicated.

Then there is the question, If we remove our reliable and cheap energy sources, where will we get the electricity needed to power all the electric cars, electric water heaters, electric heating systems, etc. to which we are supposed to convert? Solar? In Oregon? Solar isn’t even adequate in Texas. Wind? People who think windmills have minimal impact on the environment need to investigate what it takes to manufacture and erect those ugly monstrosities that generate electricity only sporadically and at high cost.

Before we even consider breaching dams on the Umpqua, McKenzie, Columbia, and Snake Rivers, we should conduct years of environmental studies on the Klamath River. Freeing rivers comes at tremendous environmental costs. Is it worth it?

 Carol Lovegren Miller

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