KRRC starting to remove Iron Gate Dam from the top down


SISKIYOU COUNTY, Cal.- The Klamath River Renewal Corporation is starting to remove Iron Gate Dam from the top down.

NBC5 News reported in April the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) needed some more information before they could give their final stamp of approval for removal of the top 13 feet of the dam. Well, the CEO of KRRC says they got that and more.

“Within a couple of days, [FERC] turned around and issued another authorization saying, ‘go ahead and proceed to take the entire dam down’,” said Klamath River Renewal Corporation CEO Mark Bransom.

According to Bransom, the removal of dams with earthen embankments, like JC Boyle and Iron Gate, isn’t as easy as it was to remove Copco 1 Dam, which was entirely concrete. He says KRRC didn’t want to remove Iron Gate until they saw low probability of a high flow event.

“Basically, what FERC said is ‘don’t bring the dams down any faster than what would be safe based on what we’re seeing for flow conditions and lake conditions at Upper Klamath Lake’,” Bransom said.

Bransom says now that they have approval from FERC, they’re going to follow a pattern of watching the runoff, bringing some of the dam down, and repeat. He says one million cubic yards of earthen material will be taken out over time. Around 20% of it will be used to fill the emergency spillway and the rest will go back to where it was originally excavated from.

“We’re actually going to take the dam down from the top, so we’ll be removing, essentially, rock, sand and clay material all at the same time,” Bransom said.

Bransom also says the changes to the environment are starting to stick as well. He says KRRC planted the full 2,200 acres of former reservoir footprint with 98 species of native plants.

“This rain is a huge help to allowing that vegetation to get started,” Bransom said, “the number one thing for stabilizing the sediments that are still there is to get vegetation growing on them.”

Bransom says the river water is at or below turbidity levels for this time of year, but KRRC will continue to test and monitor for metals and other concerns. He says wildlife, like otters, coyotes and birds are also returning to area.

“There’s food there and the aquatic ecosystem is starting to recover too as the turbidity levels drop and the river continues to clear up,” Bransom said.

Bransom says it’s KRRC‘s goal to be done with dam removals by end of August or beginning of September. He says they’ll stay a little longer for the remaining testing period, but they hope the dam removal contractor will be completely out of the area by October to November.

“I think in a handful of years, not only will you not be able to see that there was a dam in the river, but the landscape, you know, up above will return to a much more natural form as well,” Bransom said.

Bransom says they’re now waiting on approval for removal of the lower earthen section at JC Boyle. He says they’re filing a report to get FERC’s approval for that later this week.

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NBC5 News Reporter Lauren Pretto grew up in Livermore, California and attended University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with a double major in Film/Digital Media and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Lauren is a lover of books, especially Agatha Christie and Gothic novels. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she knits, bakes, and writes.
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