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Uphold the Clean Water Act on the Klamath River

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Toxic Algae on the Klamath River. Photo by Amber Jamieson.

Take Action Now!  Tell The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to uphold the Clean Water Act and move forward with the 401 certification process for PacificCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project (KHP) at their July 17 meeting.

The Clean Water Act is one our nation’s most important laws. It has been undeniably effective in recovering fresh water resources throughout the nation, and in preventing further degradation of our rivers and streams. The State of California has a responsibility to uphold the law, they must move forward with the 401 certification process for the Klamath Dams.

In 2006 Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp started the process of obtaining a needed Clean Water Act permit for their dams on the Klamath River. This permit is the last step in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) relicensing process for the Klamath Dams, which only happens every 50 years.

When these dams were originally permitted there were no laws such as the Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act. Therefore, these antiquated dams have no fish passage, release toxic algae, and warm water to the point that is lethal to salmon. PacifiCorp admits that keeping these toxic dams would cost much more than dam removal. However, every year PacifiCorp avoids compliance with the Clean Water Act while they make millions to the Klamath’s detriment. People familiar with efforts to remove the Klamath Dams know that current timelines associated with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) could allow PacifiCorp to stall for 8 more years, even though dam removal is currently not mandated by legislation. Furthermore, legislation is not progressing, and the opportunity for California voters to support dedicating public money to dam removal has been dropped from this year’s ballot.

PacifiCorp has already stalled compliance for over six years by filing and pulling their Clean Water Act certification applications. This permit is known as a 401 certification. The State of California has remained passive about holding PacificCorp accountable to the Clean Water Act. To PacificCorp financial benefit, the FERC process responsible for ensuring adequate water quality in the Klamath River has been held in abeyance. The Klamath River, and the endangered species that depend on clean, cold, and abundant water, cannot continue to suffer from regulatory apathy.

There is no way the state of California can give these dams a 401 certification, as they produce levels of the toxic algae Microcystis aeruginosa up to 3000 times what is considered safe for recreational contact, along with warm water that is lethal to salmon. Dam regulation could lead to dam removal; however, California is stalling this regulation.  Timelines in the KBRA could allow this stalling to continue until 2020, which means PacifiCorp can operate without regulations for fifteen years in addition to the fifty years they operated with immunity.

Support the Clean Water Act and the State of California’s right and responsibility to uphold the law to protect vital public trust resources.

Come out to the California Water Resources Board meeting in Sacramento on July 17, 2012.

Clean Water regulation will aid dam removal on all fronts — 401 processes have to go through public processes which can and will take several years. The Clean Water Act is designed to protect our rivers, protection that the Klamath Salmon desperately need, and application of the law could provide the catalyst that a hostile Congress needs to understand the legislation that lies before them. Therefore, the 401 process moving forward on the PacificCorp dams will not hurt the KBRA. However, if the KBRA, which is very controversial, continues to be stalled in this hostile congress, the eventual 401 permit denial further increases the chances for dam removal under proven public process, the FERC process. The FERC process can get the dams removed without legislation.

Moving to clean up the Klamath is a win-win for all who want the dams removed.

Come out to the California Water Resources Board meeting in Sacramento on July 17, 2012 at 9:00 am. There will be a rally the day of the meeting:

State Water Resources Control Board — 1001 I Street, 24th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814


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