Featured News, Siskiyou

Lower Klamath River Dam Removal Project Creates State of Emergency!

Through a formal public process, Siskiyou County California declared a local ‘State of Emergency’. Now, the disaster has landed on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk

Images courtesy of Klamath River/Lakes residents. Poster courtesy of Lindsay Rhea

Tuesday, March 26th 2024 was a long and contentious day at the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors (‘BOS’) meeting. This board meeting followed the March 5th, Siskiyou County Health Department advisory warning that people should not enter the Klamath River or drink the water.

“SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. — Residents should not be in or drink water from the Klamath River due to high levels of arsenic, lead and aluminum, the Siskiyou County Environmental Health said today.”

Activists favoring dam removal seem to be hypnotically willing to look past any and all unintended adverse impacts that have unfolded and are further unfolding.

Just the day before the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting, an adult beaver was found dead 4-miles below Iron Gate dam, adding to the huge and mounting death toll on native species aquatic and terrestrial animals as a result of the released polluted sediments from the Klamath Dams on January 23, 2024 by Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC).

On February 27, 2024, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) dumped 850,000 fall-run Chinook salmon fry into the Klamath River via it’s tributary Fall Creek, which is about 10-miles upriver from the Iron Gate Dam. A few days later, CDFW admitted all of those fish died. Many long-time residents on the Klamath River, including river guides believe those little fish all died due to extreme pollution resulting from the eroding clay sediments from the newly exposed lake bottoms of the former Copco and Iron Gate lakes. A study done in 2006 by Gethard Engineering Consultants of Seattle (‘GEC’) stated that the lake bed sediments in Copco and Iron Gate lakes are 78% clay. It’s important to note that clay is the smallest and stickiest of any sediment class making it impossible for aquatic life to exchange oxygen through their gills when a large amount is suspended into the water column such as what is happening on the Klamath river. The sticky clay suspended into the water column sticks to the gills of aquatic life, essentially suffocating them.

The BOS Meeting

Tuesday March 26, 2024 was a day that saw the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors standing strong for the health of the Klamath River as well as the health, safety and welfare of its constituents, especially those living on and around the Klamath River and the now drained lakes.

The online Zoom callers also lined-up to testify both against passing the Draft Resolution for a local emergency, and those in favor of the Resolution.

In addition to the full Board of County Supervisors being present, the board chamber was standing-room only, packed with Siskiyou County citizens.

Present were also representatives from, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Mike Harris – PIO), Mark Bransom the CEO of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (‘KRRC’) who gave testimony.

Also in attendance were numerous County staff members, including, Angela Davis, Chief Administrative Officer, Rick Dean the Director of the Community Development Department, James Smith the Agricultural Commissioner, Elizabeth Nielsen the Deputy County Administrator, Bryan Schenone the Director of OES, and Natalie Reed, County Counsel.

Emotional testimony was heard from residents who testified as having suffered insult to injury as a result of the unexpected and unintended consequences of Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s (‘KRRC’) dam removal project in addition to KRRC’s apparent lack of consideration, collaboration and transparency, according to testimony from several tearful citizens living on and around the now drained, sediment filled lakes and the Klamath River.

Throughout the proceeding, KRRC’s CEO Mark Bransom never offered an apology to the community for what has transpired, other than saying what has happened was ‘regrettable’.

Shockingly, Mark Brasom continued to deny that the lake bed sediments are polluted.

However, Bransom’s statement seems to be in total conflict with the detailed report on the lake bed sediment and water study by CDM Smith/Clearwater Sciences from 2009-2011. (See attached)

The CDM Smith report shows varied levels of several toxic heavy metals and other organic toxins, like Dioxin, DDT and PCBs, which are known to be forever chemicals that are bio-accumulative. That report also suggests that via dilution in the waters of the Klamath River and its tributaries, the toxic impacts of some of these many toxins might be mitigated.The old ‘dilution is the solution to pollution’ was implicated in the CDM Smith/Stillwater Sciences study.

But how well has that worked? Looking at the tens of thousands of dump sites on land and in our rivers and oceans we find that dilution has turned to accumulation and long-term toxic pollution.

And now, the most advanced science informs us that ‘dilution is NOT the solution to pollution‘!

What’s the Real Goal for the Klamath Dam Removal Project? Is Money offsetting science and common sense?ย More on that here:ย 

If the actual goal of dam removal is to improve the ecology and hopefully, the salmon habitat and populations in the Klamath River basin, does it make any sense whatsoever to knowingly allow any pollutants that can be mitigated to enter the river system? Of course not!

And that’s exactly why we are now seeing and hearing, what is arguably a total cover-up of the pollutants in the lake bed sediments, which are being allowed to continually poison the Klamath River and all of the lifeforms therein. New policy arguments stemming from science are now condemning ‘dilution’ as a solution for pollution. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1115&context=jnrel

Mark Bransom, the CEO of the ‘Klamath River Renewal Corporation’ (an oxymoron?) continues to argue there are no toxins in the estimated 15-million cubic yards of sediments now remaining in the lake beds of Copco and Iron Gate Lakes. Yet, the scientists that compiled the CDM Smith Study suggest that the numerous toxins they found in the lake bed sediments might be mitigated to some extent or another (based on theory) via dilution in the Klamath River. Who’s right? The scientists, or Mark Bransom, with the big salary?

Then there is also the sales pitch by Resource Environment Services (Dave Coffman) a contractor of KRRC and Mark Bransom that, according to them, by spreading seeds on the polluted sediments via helicopters and tossing seeds by hand, that the 15-million cubic yards of remaining clay sediments (78% Clay according the Gethard Engineering Consulting, Seattle) will be somehow magically stabilized against floods that can scour the canyons where the lake bed sediments remain, putting some or all of those polluted sediments into the waters of the Klamath River.

Expert testimony offered by Siskiyou County’s Agricultural Commissioner, James Smith, indicated that the aerial and hand seeding of the remaining lakebed sediment banks would probably not stabilize the sediments or mitigate the hazardous dust from those sediments, which are considered by the EPA as hazardous to human health.

Let’s not forget that the drawdown plan that KRRC had shared with county officials would take place over the course of a couple months, but instead they did the drawdown in a matter of a few days releasing 5-million cubic yards of polluted sediments into the Klamath River. This ‘off-plan’ action effectively killed billions of aquatic life-forms in the Klamath River, including native organisms and fish, and is still adversely impacting terrestrial fauna as well.

Understanding the natural sediments and particles that make up sediments is critical.

Clay is the smallest sedimentary particle in size (microscopic). The next largest in ascending order by size are, silt, sand and then gravel being the largest. Some pro-dam removal scientists like to argue that some of the clay particles attach themselves to some of the heavy metals and organic toxins, thus helping to minimize the toxic effects of these toxins entering the River. However that argument has another insidious side when the same clay particles with their associated toxins become airborne dust!

As we saw in the aftermath of the Condit Dam removal project, dust storms plagued citizens living on and around the area of the former dam removal site.

Just by itself Silicosis is a serious heath hazard as recognized by the American Heart and Lung Association: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/silicosis#

Now add to that an even smaller particle, clay, that has a toxin attached going into the lungs of your family and your pets. The impact of this kind of dust (clay+toxin) will also adversely impact livestock and wildlife.

The Klamath River is now arguably the River of Death, due to the magnitude and scale of the death of aquatic lifeforms as never seen in any river on the west coast of the United States before!

In the end, the vote was 4 in favor and 1 against, and the crowd in chambers let out a cheer!

The Resolution proclaiming a local emergency was passed requesting that California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaim a State of Emergency for impacts resulting from Lower Klamath Dam removal.

The only solution to address the 15-million cubic yards of polluted lakebed sediments remaining is to have as much of them removed as is possible, before the summer winds start driving the toxic clay dust into the air.

Cheap, quick, and dirty appears to be the mantra of those that have been put in charge of dam removal.

Coming to a dam site near you?



  1. Colorblind Justice

    Mark Bransom needs to be _personally_ sued with a lien placed on his entire estate and all his family’s assets until he personally funds the entire cleanup operation. ๐Ÿ’ฏ% justified.

  2. Joshua Israel

    Spot on my friend! Donโ€™t let the naysayers deter you in your march for โ€œJustice and Truth!โ€ I call LaMalfa every week and always tell his staff they need to get ahold of William Simpson for the facts on the destruction of the Klamath River. Keep at it because if we fail to hold people accountable for the destruction of the Klamath River then the Snake River is next, period, end of story!!!

  3. Cathie Brians

    Hope you get somewhere before they take out Scot Dam , LAKE PILLSBURY

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