River Restoration Ends Klamath Water Wars

Klamath River Dams Protest

When the Klamath River dams came up for federal relicensing in 2005, the Karuk Tribe, Friends of the River, and International Rivers held a rally in Sacramento, California to "bring the salmon home" to the Klamath Basin. Participants marched to the steps of the state capitol, where they heard speakers from the tribes and the commercial fisheries industry.

Photo Courtesy of International Rivers.


River Restoration Ends Klamath Water Wars

More than two dozen environmental groups, state resource agencies, and tribes in Oregon and California recently reached a deal resolving more than a decade of water wars pitting farmers against conservationists and the fishing industry. The draft agreement, released September 30, would remove four Klamath River dams that affect more than 300 miles of salmon habitat along the Oregon-California coast.

The Klamath River once was the third most productive salmon habitat on the West Coast, but two of its original five salmon species are now extinct from the watershed, and one, the coho, is endangered.

In 2001 and 2002, farmers fought to overturn restrictions on withdrawing water from the Klamath for irrigation, but the move left too little water for salmon and contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of fish.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission refused to renew hydropower licenses for PacifiCorp, the Portland, Oregon, power company that owns the dams, unless the company built fish ladders and other structures that allow salmon to migrate. Even with such improvements, estimated to cost $300 million, KIamath dams might have been denied California water quality certification. The stagnant water behind the dams frequently suffers from toxic algae blooms.

Steve Rothert of American Rivers, one of the groups to sign the new agreement, says fish populations should begin to rebound within a decade of dam removal.

—Susie Shutts is online editorial intern at YES! Magazine

Philly Transforms Stormwater into Gardens

Philly Water Works, photo by Kristina Dymond

Philadelphia Water Works.

Photo by Kristina K. Dymond.

Philadelphia’s Water Department has proposed a plan to transform not only the city’s water system but the city itself. The plan would channel storm water through a system of porous pavement, rain gardens, green roofs, and trees.

Currently, Philadelphia’s water system is a conduit for both sewage and storm run-off. The new landscaping would absorb excess rainwater and help prevent the city sewer system from spewing untreated sewage and pollutants into Philadelphia’s surrounding rivers and streams.

The landscaping would cost $1.6 billion and take several years to build, but if the EPA approves the plan, Philadelphia could become an oasis of gardens and greenery, with cooler temperatures, better air quality, and more jobs created from the project.

The green ideas included in the plan are nothing new, but Philadelphia would be the first city in the United States to implement green stormwater engineering on such a massive scale.

—Margit Christenson is a freelance writer based in New York City.


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