Thursday, November 24, 2022

Removing Four Dams from the Klamath River in California

1961 Iron Gate Dam: (Satellite)
1925 Copco 2 Dam: (Satellite)
1918 Copco 1 Dam: (Satellite)
1958 J.C. Boyle Dam: (Satellite)
The following two are not part of the removal plan.
1966 Keno Dam: (Satellite) Used for irrigation instead of power and has a functioning fish ladder.
1921 Link River Dam: (Satellite) Controls water release from Upper Klamath Lake and has a functioning fish ladder.

safe_image for The rebirth of a historic river
The largest dam set to come down on the Klamath is the Iron Gate Dam, standing at 173ft (53m) high (Credit: Dave Meurer)
The removal of four dams in the Klamath River, California, will be the largest dam-removal project in US history.
The simultaneous removal of the four dams, with a combined height of 411ft (125m), makes it the largest dam removal project in America’s history, according to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the nonprofit tasked with overseeing the dam removals. It is also set to be the most expensive, at a cost of almost $450m (£340m). [bbc]
All that verbiage about fish and they don't even give the names of the other three dams. The generating capacity of the four dams is 8% of 2,208 MW or 177 MW. But it doesn't rain year round in California. The average daily output would be much less than this. (In fact, it is about 2 GWH per day. And the capacity is actually 169 MW. [pacificorp-projectacificorp-project]) So the loss of hydropower is probably not a big deal. (I finally came across a reference that specifies both households and watthours. Since 2 GWH is supposed to support 70,000 households, that means a house consumes 28 kwh per day. As a sanity check, I use about 17 kwh/day and ComEd does flag us as an efficient user. So I now have the conversion factor that a typical household uses 28 kwh/day) Another source puts the projects capacity at 154 MW. [KlamathWaterQuality-project]

But the article doesn't say anything about the dams helping California's chronic water shortage. How much water is pumped out of the reservoirs to slake California's thirst? And how prone is the river to flooding? In a LA Times article I found "They are not used for irrigation, they are not managed for flood control, and none has 'fish ladders,' concrete chutes fish can pass through." (Actually, looking at the satellite image, they did build a fish ladder. But I can believe it doesn't work because the channel to the ladder is practically dry.) Given the length of the article, the BBC reporter should have explicitly said they don't supply water nor do they control floods. If the article had said that, most of the Facebook comments should have never happened. People just assumed that California would not allow water to simply run into the ocean. But that is what it does, it just happens to make a little electricity on the way.


The J.C. Boyle Dam...produces more than half of the Klamath River hydroelectric project's power and nearly four-times as much power as any other dam on the river....
The key to J.C. Boyle's power potential is its design. The powerhouse is four miles downstream from the dam. A concrete canal and metal penstock carry up to 2,400 cubic-feet-per-second of water down the Klamath River Canyon and through a hillside. Rushing downhill through the penstock the water gains kinetic energy, which turns two turbines at the J.C. Boyle Powerhouse.
The J.C. Boyle Dam is proposed for removal in the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Some have said it should be excluded from the agreement because it produces the majority of the power and already has a fish ladder.
The dam provides no flood control or irrigation water.
[HeraldAndNews, paycount 10]
HeraldAndNews, paycount 10

If you pan to the right, you can see that the people in the BBC article complaining about toxic blue-green algae is valid. I've never seen so much algae on a dam reservoir before. Yet in both the above photo and in the satellite image, the left gate is spilling water. So the river has algae when there is a decent flow in the river.

Note the tunnel entrance in the upper-right corner of this excerpt.

Bill Jennings, Mar 2018, cropped

The flow through the powerhouse reflects the fact that more electricity is used during the day than during the night.

The flow in the river channel is considered the "bypass" and it varies between 107 and 111 cfs. [pacificorp] They are required to maintain a flow through the river channel year round. But obviously, they don't have to keep it very wet. 

I have not been able to find the MW rating for the other dams, but it can't be much since the total project is 169 MW and Boyle does 98 MW of that. [pacificorp-project]
[Obviously, this is the Iron Gate Dam since that is the only earthen dam.]

The fluctuations between 400 cfs and 1600 cfs causes problems such as stranding fish and washing away anglers. Copco 2 was built to smooth out the flow coming from Copco 1. But it did not do a good enough job so Iron Gate Dam was built to absorb the fluctuations. [KlamathWaterQuality-project] Obviously, you don't need these dams if Boyle and Copco 1 are gone.

40 parties were involved in the negotiation of the plan. Last spring, the plan was that PacifiCorp would pay $250m towards the removal and transfer the hydroelectric license to the nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation. But the Feds ruled in July that Pacificorp would have to remain a co-licensee. PacifiCorp wanted to protect its rate payers from any liability resulting from the removal and wanted to be rid of the licensee. In November 2020, Oregon and California agreed to be the co-licensee with the nonprofit. PacifiCorp is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway. [OregonLive, OPB]

Once I learned the dams don't supply water or control floods, I think they should have been removed years ago. After all, the license expired in 2006. But I don't think you have to spend a half-billion dollars to remove them. Just chomp a tunnel in the base of the concrete dams. Let the rest of the dam stand as a historical monument. The tunnel should be big enough that you can easily raft through it during high flows. That should be big enough to allow salmon to swim upstream.

Nov 24, 2022: (I wrote the above a couple of years ago.)
ChicagoTribune, Nov 24, 2022, Gillian Flaccus/AP 2020
"U.S. Regulators have approved a plan to demolish four dams on a California river and open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat that would be the largest dam removal and river restoration project in the world when it goes forward." The project is expected to cost $500m. PacificCorp will contribute $200m because it would have needed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to meet environmental regulations for fish ladders, etc., to get its license renewed. The dams provided less than 2% of PacificCorp's capacity only when running at full capacity. But they often ran at a far lower capacity because of low water levels and other issues.

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