PACIFICORP’S APPLICATION TO the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to renew its license for six hydroelectric dams on the Upper Klamath river in Oregon and northern California does not include a plan for fish passage, a measure long sought by environmentalists.

While the current license expires next year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries – the US federal agency that has oversight on salmon runs – will examine whether fish passage is required for a new 50-year license.

Indian tribes, sport and commercial fishers, environmentalists and the state of Oregon are pressing for the opening up of the 480km of river upstream of the dams for fish passage. Since the first dams were built more than eight decades ago, salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey have not had access to the upper 65% of the Klamath basin. Currently, the river’s coho salmon are listed as threatened both by the federal and state governments.

PacifiCorp says that it would cost over US$100M to install fish ladders and fish screens at turbines on the lower four of its six dams.

PacifiCorp operates six hydroelectric facilities at six dams spread along 72km of the Klamath river downstream from Klamath Falls and across into northern California. The six projects contribute only 151MW of PacifiCorp’s total 8300MW generation capacity. However, the hydro plants provide peaking power to the utility during high demand periods. The PacifiCorp application to FERC asks for the decommissioning of two small power houses on Link River dam, a US Bureau of Reclamation-owned scheme, slated for a new fish ladder to help threatened suckers move in and out of the lake.

PacifiCorp has asked for a renewed licence to generate power at J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Irongate dams on the main stem of the Klamath river as well as at the Fall Creek power house on a tributary of the Klamath.