Removal Timeline for Klamath River Dams Updated
According to a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corp. has updated the cost and timeline for the removal of four hydroelectric dams located in California and Oregon, along the Klamath River.
The new 1,333-page report indicates that the cost for the project is just under $434 million (previously estimated to cost $400 million) and is slated to occur by 2022. However, Kiewit Infrastructure West is still working to announce a Guaranteed Maximum Price by January 2020.
About the Project
The purpose of the removal of the hydroelectric dams is to allow the body of water to flow freely with fish passages that are also planned to be restored. As reported by Engineering News-Record, the project is a record-size venture in the United States, adding that KRRC spokesperson Matt Cox called the dam removal the largest in the country’s history.
The J.C. Boyle dam, located in Oregon, and dams Copco I, Copco II and Iron Gate, located in California, were all built between 1918 and 1962. Collectively, the dams can generate up to 43 MW of hydroelectric power.
Kiewit won the contract over Granite Construction and Barnard Construction at the end of April, and was chosen using a stepped design-build plan—one that implements a selection process based on working toward a design/contract price.
Design and permitting support, among other responsibilities, are part of the first phase of work, to be followed by final design and construction, as well as land restoration in the second phase. Moving forward, the FERC needs to see that the KRRC has the capacity to do the work by submitting plans to the federal agency. Following that, FERC must approve transferring the dam’s license from utility owner PacifiCorp to the KRRC.
The saga of the dam removal dates back to 2004, when PacifiCorp wanted to relicense the dams before transferring ownership. A 2016 utility agreement with regulators and stakeholders from both states regarding environmental conditions prompted the dam removal.
What’s Happening Now
Before the project can officially move forward, regulators are now considering whether the dams’ operating license be transferred from PacifiCorp to KRRC. Prior to the possible transfer however, the KRRC must prove to an independent board of consultants—made up of six members appointed by the federal government—that it has proper money arrangements, insurance and contingency for its proposal.
Mark Bransom, KRRC executive director, stated that he is confident the KRRC has the proper funding for the job. Regarding the latest estimate, $434 million shows to be well within the $450 million budget, which includes $62 million slated for unanticipated costs and $16 million left over in cash reserves.
Funding for the removal project has been received primarily from PacifiCorp ratepayers, contributing $200 million, about another $250 million from California Proposition 1 and a $7.5 billion statewide water bond that was passed in 2014.
As a request that FERC give the proposal proper consideration, Democrats representing Oregon and California submitted a letter on Aug. 1, stating: “For decades, the Lower Klamath Project has blocked fish passage on the Klamath River, resulted in harmful algal blooms and created conflicts between various stakeholder groups. Timely removal of these dams is critical to tribes in the Klamath Basin, West Coast fishing and recreation communities, and farmers and ranchers in Southern Oregon and Northern California.”
The California State Water Resources Control Board is also still finalizing its environmental review of the project.
In the meantime, KRRC has hired Resource Environmental Solutions LLC for environmental mitigation, and is proposing a local impact mitigation fund so any potential damages can be filed through claims.