The good news for dam removal advocates is that the draft “Secretarial Determination Overview Report” released today clearly points toward an important win.

One key proviso of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar must officially give his stamp of approval to the project. The present report looks at report looks at four questions the Secretary must answer in order to make his finding, and concludes that those answers point toward a positive determination.

To summarize, the questions and the answers given in the draft report are as follows.

1). Will dam removal benefit fisheries? In the long run, absolutely. However, there will be short-term negative impacts on salmon and trout species associated with the release of sediment that has built up behind the dams. Removal would also help lamprey, green sturgeon and the endangered Upper Klamath sucker species, among others.

2). What will dam removal entail, and what will it cost? Full removal of all four hydropower dams on the Klamath is expected to cost around $291 million. (That figure, strangely enough, is given in 2020 dollars — what the dollar is expected to be worth in the year dam removal takes place.) This is far less than the $450 million that the states of Oregon and California have pledged to the project. The figure includes mitigation measures and well as actual demolition costs.

3). What risks and uncertainties will be associated with dam removal? The sediment release into the river after dam removal could be much greater than forecast. Unforeseen delays could cause costs to skyrocket. Removal of the upstream dams could cause flooding along the banks of the river. Culturally significant locations that are now underneath water could be the target of looters. 

4). Is dam removal in the public interest? Removal would “provide substantial social and economic benefits to the Klamath Basin” in the form of improved fisheries and a more secure water supply for upstream agriculture. However, recreational use associated with the four reservoirs behind the dams would take a hit. Homes built near those reservoirs would decrease in value. The electricity previously generated by the dams would, of course, be lost.

Download the executive summary of the Overview Report here. Press release from the Department of the Interior follows, with information on how to submit public comment in advance of the final version of this report:

Interior Issues Draft Overview Report on Klamath Dam Removal Studies 
Draft overview captures potential economic, environmental opportunities; 
Public comment on draft sought by February 5, 2012

Washington, DC – The Interior Department today published a draft report summarizing two years of scientific and technical studies conducted to help inform the Secretary of the Interior on a forthcoming decision on whether to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, per the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) of 2010.  The comprehensive draft report, entitled Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior: an Assessment of Science and Technical Information (Overview Report), and each individual study conducted on the environmental and economic impacts of the potential dam removal, are available at

The draft report presents in plain language a summary of dozens of peer-reviewed reports that have been prepared by the federal government and made public as part of the effort to fill important data gaps prior to a Secretarial Determination. Many of the findings – in disciplines including economics, engineering, biology, water quality, recreation and real estate – were 
first published in September 

“The science and analyses presented in these reports are vital to making an informed and sound decision on the Klamath River dam removal,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “As we work toward strengthening the health and economic prosperity of all that depends on the Klamath – including our watersheds, fisheries, and forests - I encourage members of the public to offer their input on this draft overview report and perspectives on the opportunity that lies ahead.”

The Interior Department today also released an updated Economics and Tribal Summary Technical Report and the Klamath River Basin Restoration Nonuse Value Survey Final Report.  The Economics and Tribal Summary Report provides an assessment of the economic benefits and costs of dam removal.   The Nonuse Value Survey Final Report provides estimates of one important component of the economic benefits, nonuse values.

The economic reports analyzed in the draft Overview Report find that dam removal and implementation of the related watershed-wide restoration program provide an opportunity to bring significant additional jobs to the region and strengthen local economies in the Klamath Basin for reasons that include improved fish populations; additional recreational and commercial fishing opportunities; and increased agricultural output due to more certainty in water deliveries.

A summary of the key conclusions from the scientific and technical reports is available 

As part of its commitment to openness, transparency and scientific integrity, the Interior Department is arranging for a scientific peer review of the draft Overview Report by a six-member independent panel. In addition, the Department is encouraging the public to review and offer technical comments on the draft report for the peer reviewers to consider during their deliberations. 

The peer reviewers were selected based on their expertise to review the technical information contained in the draft report, including engineering, fisheries biology, stream restoration, geomorphology, stream ecology, hydrology, water quality, natural resource economics, and anthropology/tribal history. Atkins North America, a firm with a specialty in overseeing scientific peer reviews, will facilitate the deliberations of the peer review panel and will assist them in the preparation of their report of peer review comments.  

The final Overview Report, and the dozens of reports it summarizesalong with the final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report on Klamath River dam removal, will help inform the Secretarial Determination, which is expected later this spring. 

Additional information is available at 

The public comment period on the Klamath Overview Report is open from January 24 through February 5, 2012. Comments received after this date will not be considered by the peer reviewers. Public comments should be emailed to:, or mailed to:   

Atkins North America, Inc
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