Opinion, Siskiyou

OPEN LETTER – TO: Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, Et. Al. RE: Klamath Dam Removal Disaster

TO: Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors:       Et. Al.RE: Klamath Dam Removal Disaster
URGENT CALL TO ACTION – Declaring A State of Emergency – OPEN LETTER
Via EMAIL ONLY – February 26, 2024

Dear Chairman Kobseff – Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors:

On August 23, 2022, Siskiyou County declared a State of Emergencyafter the McKinney Fire mudslide, as we read in the following article from the Record Searchlight:

‘Unparalleled ecological destruction:’ California declares emergency in Siskiyou County

‘Unparalleled ecological destruction:’ California declares emergency in …Siskiyou has been added to a list of California counties that suffered damage from Tropical Storm Hilary.

“Siskiyou County officials declared a state of emergency on Aug. 23 after heavy rains caused damage in the area of the McKinney Fire and the Head Fire and Happy Camp Complex of fires.

The governor’s announcement said the storm “caused flash-flooding, mudslides, landslides and debris flows that damaged roads, storm drains and other infrastructure in the county.”

By comparison, what has been unleashed by the actions and unplanned and unintended results of Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s (KRRC) off-plan rapid dewatering of Copco and Iron Gate Lakes, and the release of a torrent of water containing 5-7 million metric yards of deadly sediments and known toxins over the period of just a few daysinstead of the months per their well socialize plan, has resulted in a environmental and ecological disaster of epic proportions in our County, adversely impacting citizens.

The evidence of this disaster, which easily transcends the McKinney Fire mudslide, is visible and empirical and requires no study. 

And the adverse impacts upon the many communities of citizens living on and around the lakes (Copco and Iron Gate) and down-river are many and long lasting.

It’s time for this Board to act and do something in favor of it’s citizens.

By immediately declaring a State of Emergency, many things may happen, which could potentially help the County and its impacted citizens, including but not limited to aid from state agencies and potential aid funding.

As you know, the previously sequestered USGS sediment and water sample survey shows relatively high levels of aqueous heavy metals, and even higher concentrations of heavy metals in the sediments, above and below the lakes (Copco & Iron Gate). The sediments in the lakes were not tested by the USGS. 

That USGS data is found online (Excel Spreadsheet & PDF) at this link: https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/file/get/6585c75fd34eff134d4354d3

That study was conducted from 2018-2022, and curiously, wasn’t released to the public until January 31, 2024, a week after a torrent of toxic sediment-laden water was released from Iron Gate Dam in Jan. 23, 2024.

Well established settled-science and empirical experience demonstrate that, when relatively high-levels of naturally-occurring heavy metals, as recorded in the extensive USGS survey of the Klamath River dated Sept. 2022, are transported by rivers and then reach areas were the current slows, these heavy metals and sediments settle-out

In mining operations it’s a well known fact the unwanted metals and sediments are prevented from entering waterways via the use of ‘settling ponds’.  https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_Report.cfm?


It’s a fact that Copco Lake acted as a massive settling pond (lake) for 106-years, and during that time, naturally-occuring heavy metals (Lead, Chromium, Cadmium, Arsenic, etc.) from the Klamath River settled-out of the river as it flowed into the lake, and these metals became highly concentrated in the lake-bottom sediments. The same for Iron Gate lake over it’s 60-years of settling-out and concentrating heavy metals and sediments.

When these previously undisturbed lake-bottom sediments are disturbed via a sudden torrent of turbulent water, the highly concentrated levels of toxic metals are then stirred back into the fast-moving water and taken down river, where they are being redistributed in the areas of the river where the current slows.

Already signs of heavy sediment overburdens in the Klamath River are visibly apparent in many locations along the entirety of the Klamath River. Over time, these toxic metals (micro-particles) can move through the alluvium of the River and into wells drawing water. Moreover, some metals can go into solution (like lead) and enter water wells beyond the alluvium.  These and other actions pose a serious public health and safety issue!

As we also see, the unplanned‘ documented deaths of native speciesof animals (fish, invertebrates, microbiome) all the way to the coast, presenting what is by definition a total ecological collapse of the Klamath River below the Project site.

Then we have the unmitigated adverse impacts upon citizens health, property and property rights, loss of domestic water in a community that under California policy is a ‘disadvantaged community‘, failure of roads, pending dam collapse of the clay-core dams [1], and the approximately 15-million metric yards of highly toxic sediments that are remaining in the lake bottoms, and regardless of some planting, will continue eroding and leaching toxins into the Klamath River. These hazardous sediments must be removed and located to an appropriate location as soon as possible.

For these and other reasons, which as you know are beyond the scope of this email, and are likely known to you. Many citizens cannot even afford the testing of their wells immediately, and periodically thereafter to protect their health, and the heath of their livestock and pets.

I hereby petition and request that the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors immediately declares a state of emergency, in hope we can obtain some funding and aid to assist with these horrific unplanned outcomes and provide some financial aid to qualified citizens in distress who live on and around the lakes and the Klamath River.

Respectfully Yours, 
William E. Simpson II – Rancher & Naturalist 
1. Additional pending disaster with regard to demolition of the earthen dams (Iron Gate, etc.! http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/science/scientists/stephenkoshy/KoshyLetter032812toGuarino.pdf


  1. Kristi Lawrence

    Since this is directed to the board of supervisors I will ask that they act immediately and respond to the request to declare a state of emergency for this KRRC, man made disaster. I am adding a request that the dam removal be stopped. The people voted by strong majority to not remove the dams. The KRRC and everyone involved in this disaster, circumvented our vote. Is this fair or legal? Isn’t it up to our supervisors to protect our vote? This whole disaster has opened up so many questions. We are seeing so much peripheral damage and I expect this will happen for untold years to come. Please do your jobs.

  2. The removal of the dams is senseless in a world that is going to be electric power world.. These dams are Hydo generating electric dams which cost little to run but adds a great resource to this community..
    If the dam removal is truly about to save the salmon population there are better ways to ensure the passing of the Salmon over the dams which would be far cheaper than removing dams.
    In Hornbrook there is already a huge water problem. The city water department and storage goes dry more than often as it is and this will only add to the problem.. Not to even talk about fires..
    The river is a huge asset for putting out the fires that happen in the area.. With the lakes being gone where will they pull water from to put out the fires? There will be a huge lost of lives and property if and when this happens.. God forbids! Then I see law suites.. This is going to be a big mess for years to come..

  3. Hello,
    I’m a concerned citizen who lives around Iron Gate.
    Last year there was a letter that went out about the 4 dams being removed. But really no instructions on what we should do.
    My point is, everyone who lives near these dams should have their water tested. But not at our expense. This should be automatically done through this project. But then again, would we be able to trust their testing?
    There was a reason why the first contractor backed out of removing the silt, it was because it’s toxic and no place to put it. That’s when these companies should have figured it out first before the removal. So much for saving the fish and the animals.

  4. This man-made disaster is 1000 times worse than anything I’ve ever seen when it comes to endangered, protected species, and life in general! But now the enviro-wackos are all telling us how wonderful it is! The river will recover, they say, so sit down and shut up crybabies!!! BS!!! The Trinity River Project was shut completely down for allegedly polluting the river when we were causing a teaspoon of turbidity over a duration of years of in-river sediment removal- NOT DU7MPING TOXIC SLUDGE BACK INTO THE RIVER!!!!!!! This should be immediately stopped by our Sheriff Department and all regulatory agencies should be called on the carpet for allowing it !!! BTW enviro-hypocrites, Hiroshima and Nagasaki also eventually recovered. Does this justify your position?????

  5. Why was the sediment.not tested prior to the release? The removal of the dams is nuts, what did they think would happen, “oh a little trickle of water, it’s ok”. I feel so sorry for the people below removed dams, loosing wells, property and maybe their life down the road. The people who signed off on this should be sent to live on the path of this destruction

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