One of the planet’s most important river restoration projects gets underway in California, with first of four dam removals

On June 26, 2023 in northern California near the Oregon border, the beginning of one of the most important environmental restoration projects on the planet was announced.

That was when deconstruction and removal of Copco 2, the smallest of the four deadly hydroelectric dams slated to be removed to restore the health of the Klamath River, got underway.

Crews removed the gates, walkway, and two of the five bays down to the spillway.

This work was done to direct waters around the dam, rather than over it, allowing construction crews to do work through the summer months.

Copco 2 before removal.
Credit: Shane Anderson, Swiftwater Films

While this is just the first step, it certainly is an exciting moment,” said Mark Bransom, CEO of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC).

Crews are making fast progress in these early stages of the project, and we are on track with our removal timeline,” he added.

Crews placed around 10 feet of rock on either side of the dam in order to reach the gates and bays for deconstruction. Much of the Copco No. 2 infrastructure remains in place below this rock surface.

Deconstruction of this dam will continue through the summer, with final decommissioning and complete removal occurring sometime in September.

We are pleased that we were able to make so much progress this week,” noted Dan Petersen, Kiewit’s Project Manager overseeing the removal of Copco No. 2

But removing Copco No. 2 is still not a done deal. We expect to officially wrap up this phase of the dam removal project sometime in September,” he continued.

The other three dams, Iron Gate, Copco No. 1, and JC Boyle are expected to be removed next year, beginning with the drawdown of the reservoirs in January of 2024. Their incremental deconstruction will continue throughout the year, with construction activities expected to conclude sometime in late 2024.

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is a private, independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2016 by 23 signatories of the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, or KHSA.

KRRC is part of a cooperative effort to re-establish the natural vitality of the Klamath River so that it can support all communities in the Klamath Basin.

Signatories, which include the States of California and Oregon, local governments, Tribal nations, dam owner PacifiCorp, irrigators, and several conservation and fishing groups, appointed KRRC to take ownership and oversee removal of four hydroelectric dams on the river.

Featured photo of Copco 2 during deconstruction is by Shane Anderson of Swiftwater Films, via CalTrout.

Learn more about KRRC.

See CalTrout website.

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