The removal of the Klamath Basin Dam requires a science-driven oversight plan

In short

A strong monitoring program is essential to ensure the success of the project to remove the four aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. More than $ 450 million has been earmarked, but little has been earmarked for funding the science of project evaluation.

Klamath Basin is at the height of the biggest effort ever to remove the dam. If everything is planned, efforts will be made next year to dispose of the four old hydroelectric dams that divide the basin in half. Are we ready for that?

The implications of this effort to remove the dam are far-reaching, affecting not only the main island of the river, but ultimately all the tributaries with so much biodiversity. Removing dams will be an important first step, although many steps are missing, in improving the salmon and steel stocks in the basin.

A strong science and follow-up program is essential to ensure the success of the project, and will help drive future projects around the world. Although more than $ 450 million has been earmarked for the removal of the dam, as far as we know, little has been earmarked for funding the science needed to evaluate it. This is a mistake.

Science in the basin has come a long way in the last 20 years, thanks to the efforts of the federal government, Oregon, California, tribes, universities, consultants, and various nonprofits. Efforts such as the Klamath Basin Monitoring Program and the Klamath Basin Integrated Fisheries Restoration and Monitoring Plan show great potential. But both efforts are moving forward, and neither is focused on meeting the science and monitoring needs of the dam removal.

If we are going to have a science program ready when they start dumping, we need to start now. Assembling such a program usually takes a year or more.

We encourage all stakeholders to make the development and funding of a science program focused on assessing the impact of dam removal and addressing management responses urgent. Based on our long experience with various science programs, we provide four criteria that are necessary for success. The program must be:

Driven by hypotheses: The basis of adaptive management is that all management actions are hypotheses to be tested through modeling and monitoring. The key to success is to avoid the temptation to measure everything, but first and foremost to focus on the few hypotheses that justified the removal of the dam.

Inclusive: All parties need a seat at the table, especially the tribes that are most involved in the outcome and the tribes that have developed their increasingly sophisticated science and monitoring programs.

Well guided: Strong leadership is essential. Even if the program is inclusive, it needs someone with the authority and resources to make decisions that will allow it to be a lightweight program.

Funded with confidence: Too often, these programs are reduced by funding for existing programs. In the long run, this approach is ineffective and creates confusion and conflict.

Based on other programs, we estimate that $ 5 million a year is needed for 10 years. A combination of state and federal funding is the safest source of funding, although private philanthropy can help.

There are many models of this type of program, both within and outside government. The Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center is an example of a federally managed program that addresses management assumptions.

Another would be the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, a strong leadership joint authority and known for its inclusiveness and consensus-based program planning.

A third option would be to develop a model for the non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the organization responsible for removing dams in Klamath.

All of these are viable options.

The whole world is watching the Klamath dam removal project. It is an opportunity not only to properly remove the dams, but also to guide the future management of the Klamath Basin and the management of all other major projects to remove the dams in the West and, incidentally, around the world.

All parties must adhere to the targeted science program, and they must do so soon.


Jeffrey Mount has written it before Delta watershed managementdu Endangered Species Act and Restoring California ecosystems.

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