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Water Quality Certification Program
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Project No. 14803
Project Name: Lower Klamath Project
(facing downstream on the Klamath River)
Applicant: Klamath River Renewal Corporation
FERC License Expiration Date: Not Applicable – Surrender Application
Water Quality Certification Status: Active
Waterbody: Klamath River
FERC Licensing Process: License Surrender
The Lower Klamath Project (Project) is located along the Klamath River, in Siskiyou County, California, and in Klamath County, Oregon. The nearest city to the California portion of the Project is Yreka, which is located 20 miles southwest of the Project’s downstream end.
The California portion of the Project includes three dam developments: Iron Gate, Copco No. 1, and Copco No. 2. The Oregon portion of the Project includes the J.C. Boyle dam development, which is located on the Klamath River approximately 16 river miles from Oregon’s boarder with California.
The Project is currently part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 2082), which is owned and operated by PacifiCorp. The Klamath Hydroelectric Project presently consists of seven dam developments: (1) East Side; (2) West Side; (3) Keno; (4) J.C. Boyle; (5) Fall Creek Powerhouse (located on Fall Creek, a Klamath River tributary); (6) Copco No. 1; (7) Copco No. 2; and (8) Iron Gate.
On September 23, 2016, PacifiCorp and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation filed a joint license transfer application with FERC that seeks to transfer four dam developments (J.C. Boyle; Copco No. 1; Copco No. 2; and Iron Gate) to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. Concurrent with the license transfer application, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation filed a license surrender application with FERC to decommission the Project.
The Klamath River Renewal Corporation is proposing to remove sufficient portions of the Iron Gate, Copco No. 2, Copco No. 1, and J.C. Boyle dam developments to create a free flowing Klamath River and provide for volitional fish passage in the Klamath River. The hydroelectric facilities and associated structures will either be removed or decommissioned in place.
Additional information on the Project and Klamath Hydroelectric Project, beyond the scope of the State Water Board’s water quality certification process, can be found on FERC's elibrary.
Klamath River Water Quality Issues
Blue-green algal blooms occur yearly in the Klamath River and in Iron Gate and Copco Reservoirs. One species, Microcystis aeruginosa (microcystis), produces microcystin, a liver toxin, and has led to annual issuance of state health advisories during the late summer and early fall (health advisory poster). The anadromous fish populations in the Klamath River watershed have declined significantly in recent years, which may be related to various factors including fish passage blockage, parasitic fish diseases in the watershed, and poor water quality. The Klamath River and Project dam developments are listed in the California’s 2012 Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List of Impaired Water Bodies (2012 Integrated Report) as follows:
- The Klamath River from the Oregon border to the Pacific Ocean is listed for nutrients, organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen, and temperature.
- Iron Gate and Copco No. 1 reservoirs are listed for mercury and microcystin, a liver toxin produced by blue-green algae.
- The Klamath River from Copco No. 1 reservoir to the Trinity River is listed for microcystin.
- The Klamath River from the Trinity River to the Pacific Ocean is listed for sediment.
- The Klamath River from Iron Gate Dam to the Scott River is listed for aluminum.
Klamath Settlement Agreements
Four Settlement Agreements were executed by a number of parties with varying interests in the Klamath Basin: 1) Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement; 2) Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement; 3) Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement; and 3) Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement; and 4) Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement. These settlement agreements, among other things: 1) provided a decision-making framework and process for removal of J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate dam developments; 2) addressed water supply and allocation issues; and 3) set forth substantial water quality improvement measures for the Upper Klamath Basin. Each of these agreements is described in more detail below.
Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA): On February 18, 2010, PacifiCorp, several state, federal, and local agencies, nongovernmental organizations, individual stakeholders and Native American Tribes executed the KHSA. The KHSA proposed federal legislation that would have halted PacifiCorp’s Klamath Hydroelectric Project FERC relicensing process and granted the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior the authority to determine whether removing J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate dam developments was in the public interest and would advance salmon restoration.
On April 6, 2016, the KHSA was amended (Amended KHSA) mainly to remove the need for congressional authorization, and to pursue dam removal through the FERC license surrender process.
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA): The KBRA was originally executed on February 18, 2010, and amended on December 29, 2012. The KBRA was a companion agreement to the KHSA intended to resolve disputes regarding the amount, timing, and other conditions of water diversions and delivery for agriculture, National Wildlife Refuges, and related uses by the Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Project. In addition, the KBRA was intended to resolve disputes by non-federal entities in the Upper Klamath Basin related to instream flows and lake levels. The KBRA terminated on December 31, 2015, mainly due to the lack of Congressional authorization enacting the 2010 KHSA and KBRA.
Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA): On April 18, 2014, the UKBCA was signed by Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Senator Jeff Merkley, Undersecretary of the Department of Commerce Kathryn Sullivan, California Resources Secretary John Laird, Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry, and members of the Klamath Basin Task Force. The UKBCA would: (1) increase stream flows into Upper Klamath Lake through voluntary water use reduction measures; (2) provide stability for irrigated agriculture in the Upper Klamath Basin; (3) improve and protect riparian habitat; and (4) create economic opportunities for the Klamath Tribes and increase opportunities for the exercise of tribal cultural rights.
Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement (KPFA): On April 6, 2016, the KPFA was executed by state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and irrigation districts. The KPFA include commitments by the parties to engage in good faith efforts to develop and enter into a subsequent agreement or agreements pertaining to water, fisheries, land, agriculture, refuge and economic sustainability issues in the Klamath Basin.
Lower Klamath Project's Water Quality Certification Application Process:
- State Water Board’s Acceptance of the Water Quality Certification Application - October 21, 2016
- Water Quality Certification Application - September 23, 2016
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA):
- Scoping Meeting Presentation: color | black and white
- Notice of Preparation and Scoping Meetings - December 22, 2016 (Yreka Scoping Meeting details updated January 10, 2017)
- Water Quality Control Plan for the North Coast Region (Basin Plan) - May 2011
- Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List of Water Quality Limited Segments - January 3, 2012
- Action Plan for the Klamath River Total Maximum Daily Loads - September 2010
- Klamath River Site-Specific Objectives for Dissolved Oxygen - September 2010