On November 17, 2020 Oregon, California, the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and the Klamath Dam owner Berkshire Hathaway-PacifiCorp agreed to provide additional resources and support for dam removal to advance the largest dam removal, river and fish population restoration project in US history. This involves returning the Klamath River to a free-flowing condition allowing anadromous fish to regain access to more than 400 miles of historic habitat, including restoring access to cold water refuges needed to help buffer ongoing climate change.
With the new Memorandum of Agreement now in place, it is increasingly likely that dam removal will occur and the river returned to a free-flowing condition in 2023.
There has been extensive work done to understand and plan for the impacts of this project. Many other habitat restoration activities will immediately follow dam removal and continue for many years.
A critical element of planning fish population restoration activities is being led by ESSA Technologies. With funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, ESSA was contracted by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in 2016 to initiate a multi-phase Integrated Fisheries Restoration and Monitoring Plan (IFRMP) for the Klamath Basin. This Plan uses best available science and broad interdisciplinary collaboration within an Adaptive Management framework to develop basin-scale objectives and prioritized restoration and monitoring needs for ten (10) focal fish populations throughout the Klamath Basin. The fundamental question tackled by the IFRMP is: given all we know; which habitat restoration actions will provide the broadest possible benefits to multiple native Klamath Basin fish species – throughout the Basin and within each sub-basin watershed?
Of course, there is not a single static answer to this important question. Habitat restoration needs will continue to evolve through time as environmental conditions change and as restoration practitioners learn about the efficacy of different restoration projects. To facilitate future Adaptive Management implementation, ESSA developed a multi-criteria scoring methodology for systematic, repeatable and transparent ranking of Klamath Basin restoration actions. The data and mechanics needed to execute this approach are unified in the Klamath IFRMP Restoration Prioritization Tool. The tool allows different prioritization scenarios to be created that consist of different combinations of weighting factors on the individual scoring criteria (e.g., based on perceptions of importance of multi-species benefits vs. focusing on individual species). Users can also download results to Excel outside of the tool for future reference. An overview tutorial and login instructions for accessing the tool are available here.
The data, advice and tools developed for the IFRMP would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of the more than one hundred Federal Coordination Group and Sub-basin Working Group members who collectively over the course of Phase 2 (2017-2018) and 3 (2019-2020) committed many hundreds of person hours of time to the development and review of this Plan. The IFRMP Sub-basin Working Groups are comprised of habitat (including water quality) and fish professionals with regional and local expertise. Contributions included provision of data, professional judgement, opinions, critiques and other input to inform development of a well-integrated basin-wide Plan for the Klamath. Pathways for input included one-on-one interviews, group webinars and workshops, survey responses and review and critique of intermediary draft products.
We are sincerely grateful for the participants’ time and expertise and commend all who contributed for their patience and dedication.