top of page

Klamath Dam Removal & River Restoration Timeline

Updated: Apr 15

Check out the new Klamath Restoration StoryMap created by Resource Environmental Solutions (RES)! Now that the dams have been breached to drain the reservoirs, the Klamath River once again flows in its ancient path — but the massive task of restoring the reservoir footprints and impaired tributaries is just beginning. This StoryMap captures recent milestones, current activity and what comes next as RES readies the landscape to welcome native salmon home. There’s also a sign-up form to receive occasional notifications of new progress updates from RES.

Map courtesy of Humboldt Now:

Four dams on the Klamath River were built between 1911 and 1962, after PacificCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project was authorized in 1905. Copco 1 Dam, a 120-foot tall hydroelectric concrete gravity dam, became operational in 1918. Copco 2 Dam, a 35-foot tall hydroelectric concrete gravity dam, became operational in 1925. J.C. Boyle Dam, a 60-foot tall hydroelectric combined earth-fill and concrete gravity dam, became operational in 1958. Iron Gate Dam, a 162-foot tall earth embankment dam became operational in 1962, built to regulate flows from the hydroelectric dams upstream. Tribal-led advocacy for dam removal began in earnest in the early 2000s, particularly after a catastrophic fish kill downstream of Iron Gate Dam was caused by water mismanagement and low flows in September 2002 where an estimated 30,000 to 70,000 adult salmon perished along the Klamath River.

In 2005, multi-party negotiations resulted in the beginning of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, whose final forms were signed in 2010. When PacificCorp’s licensing agreement expired in 2006, the company chose to remove the dams over repairing and updating them.

In 2016, the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce, PacificCorp, and the States of Oregon and California signed an agreement to remove Copco 1, Copco 2, J.C. Boyle, and Iron Gate from the Klamath River, through a process administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) was created to oversee the Klamath dam removal project.

“These dams were really important at the time they were constructed. They electrified this region for the first time,” said Mark Bransom, CEO of KRRC, in February 2024. “It wasn’t recognized at the time that the construction of these dams would bring negative environmental impacts. They generate a really small amount of power. In fact, they really only represent 2% of PacifiCorp’s power generation portfolio.”

Since 2018, crews working for the Yurok Tribe’s fisheries department have been collecting hundreds of species of native seeds to be used to revegetate areas uncovered by Klamath dam removal and reservoir drawdown. 

After more than 20 years of Tribal-led advocacy for Klamath dam removal, Copco 2, the smallest of the four dams slated for removal, was fully removed from the Klamath River in October 2023 after 98 years of operation. Watch this short video from Swiftwater Films showing the 5-month Copco 2 removal process:

In the fall and winter of 2023, prior to reservoir drawdown, RES and the Karuk Tribe relocated threatened and endangered fish within and downstream of the Klamath River Renewal Project to reduce the impacts of dam removal on native fisheries. Watch this short video from RES about relocating overwintering juvenile coho salmon:

In January 2024, the reservoirs formed and maintained by the Klamath River’s four dams were carefully and systematically breached and drained. Yurok Tribal member Richard Green planted the first acorn following dam removal, marking the official start of Klamath River restoration that also includes water quality monitoring, seed germination, and assisted sediment evacuation. By January 25, more than 23,000 acorns had been planted and millions of seeds had been sown to begin revegetation. View this slide deck from RES about seed germination in March 2024:

On January 11, KRRC opened the gate of Iron Gate Dam to a higher flow that slowly drained the reservoir over the course of a few weeks, in anticipation of dam removal to likely begin in May or June. Watch this short video from California Trout of the Iron Gate Reservoir drawdown:

On January 16, a 10-foot diameter tunnel was blasted at the base of J.C. Boyle Dam, initiating reservoir drawdown before dam removal that is anticipated to start in June and be finished by the end of the year. Watch this short video from Swiftwater Films of the blast (the explosion occurs at 0:06, followed by a gush of water beginning at 0:11):

Also watch this short video showing alternative views of the JC Boyle blast from Oregon Public Broadcasting (the explosion starts immediately and repeats throughout):

On January 23, a 12-foot diameter tunnel was blasted at the base of Copco 1 Dam, initiating reservoir drawdown prior to dam removal that began in March and is expected to be completed by the end of August. Watch this short video from Swiftwater Films of the blast (“fire in the hole” is first heard at 1:02, and the explosion occurs at 1:14, followed by a gush of water at 1:20):

As a part of the restoration process that will follow dam removal and is expected to continue through 2028, water quality is being monitored continuously and sampled at ten locations across more than 230 miles of the Klamath River. This cooperative effort among RES, the Karuk Tribe, the Klamath Tribes, the Yurok Tribe, and the U.S. Geological Survey gathers data on sediment movement, sediment composition, water temperature, water level, and water quality to better inform the restoration project. Watch this short video from RES for an inside look at the extensive water quality monitoring effort:

Watch this short video from RES for an inside look at assisted sediment evacuation efforts to take advantage of sediment from tributary deltas to restore fish habitat:


bottom of page