Photo shows community members at meeting about Klamath Dam removals

Special meeting for Klamath River dam removals

MONTAGUE, Cal. — On Tuesday night (2/13/24) a special meeting to talk about the effects of the Klamath River dam removal was held in Montague. NBC5 News was there to see how the Klamath River Renewal Corporation is responding to the public’s concerns.

The Copco Lake Community Center is where the county of Siskiyou is held a special meeting for its Board of Supervisors discussing the Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s project.

KRRC says there are two main benefits of removing the dams; to improve water quality for fish and open up about 400 miles of historic habitats. This is the largest dam removal in the history of the nation and some people have not been happy with how it’s been turning out.

“This is not what we were sold. This is horrible was happening and most devastating thing I have ever seen in my life,” said one person who spoke at the meeting.

Many concerns were brought up during the meeting such as the mud, water quality, housing, wildlife safety, recreation, and more. One of the largest concerns raised was if dangerous materials are present in the remaining water. Some folks presented reports saying metals like chromium, barium, lead, and more were found at high levels in the Klamath River.

“I wouldn’t swim in that river with the chromium and the heavy metals that’s in there,” said another person at the meeting.

At the time of the meeting, neither the county nor KRRC had seen those reports showing metals in the water. The CEO of KRRC Mark Branson says they do test the water for a number of attributes.

“We are monitoring for other parameters besides the nature of the soil and sediment itself. So, there are tests for at least one metal,” said Branson.

Many people are also worried about the aquatic wildlife. Michael Harris an Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reaffirms KRRC’s standpoint that the amount of silt in the water is temporary. He says with some time the Klamath River will be a great environment again for native fish.

“You’ll have a situation where salmon will be able to come up spawn, their juveniles will rear and go back out to the ocean,” said Harris.

Speaking of the water, another main concern was people’s wells. Specifically, those wells drying up.

“We can’t even use our cabin because the well is dry. The well feeds a lot of other houses and now it’s completely dry,” said a person at the meeting.

KRRC says they’ve provided water tanks to refill these wells. They also say some of these concerns could have been avoided with a little bit more help from the community.

“If we had been able to enroll more people in that program and better build out the program and the monitoring network, I believe that we would have had better information that perhaps would have allowed us to address some of the issues that we’re seeing in these two wells,” said Bransom.

While the long-term outlook was pointed to often, many residents expressed sorrow as they believe they won’t be alive by the time positive change rolls around.

“I sincerely hope the science is correct. Though most of us will not live long enough to even see it,” said a person at the meeting.

Branson says he hopes people will be able to change their tune with a little patience. “I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that with the passage of some time, we’re going to start to see the positive results.”


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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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