Press misleads on Klamath, similarities to Hetch Hetchy

Associated Press Klamath Dam Removal Article Misleads

Similarities to and Differences from Hetch Hetchy

Klamath-River-at-Hopkins-Creek-credit-Scott-Harding-Klamath-Riverkeeper.jpgThe Klamath is a gorgeous river and a great place to visit. Click on photos for larger versions.

Photo: Scott Harding

All of us at Restore Hetch Hetchy (staff and board) are doing our part to maintain our social distances and limit spread of the disease. I hope you are well, and I look forward to better times ahead. - Spreck Rosekrans

Klamath dam removal is not about water supply.

The headline, "Plan to Demolish 4 Hydroelectric Dams on Klamath River Stirs Debate Over Coveted West Water", published this past week by the Associated Press is misleading. The dams on the Klamath produce hydropower, but they lie downstream of the agricultural diversions in the Klamath Basin and their removal will not affect those diversions.

Probably it is not the reporter's fault. Editors write the headlines, and too often they select one to grab a reader's attention, even if it is unwarranted (if it bleeds, it leads, as they say).

Fundamentally, the conflict on the Klamath is about hydropower. The four Klamath dams produce about 690 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. The restoration of Hetch Hetchy will result in a loss of about 350 gigawatt-hours per year - half the Klamath value.


The four dams slated for removal are near the California-Oregon border. The agriculturally productive Klamath basin is upstream, near Klamath Falls. Downstream the Karok, Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribe have depended on the river's salmon for millennia.

Map: Klamath Falls News


A Karok fisherman uses a traditional dip net at Ishi Pishi Falls.

Photo: Terray Sylvester, High Country News


River rafters swim in a pool on Ukonom Creek, one of the Klamath's many pretty sidestreams.

Photo: Momentum River Expeditions

The problems caused by the Klamath Dams are twofold. Like all dams, they impede upstream migration of the salmon. But these dams also also serve as incubators in the summer, when hot weather, combined with agricultural runoff from the upstream basin, produces toxic algal blooms. The river's water quality should be much improved once the dams are gone.

If you've never been to the area, it is well worth a trip north to explore the Klamath River, as well as the Trinity, Salmon and other tributaries.

Our challenge at Restore Hetch Hetchy is different. We do need to protect San Francisco's access to Tuolumne water supplies. We need to ensure that not a drop is lost when the water is taken downstream of Hetch Hetchy.

Even in our case, however, the water supply concern is frequently overstated. So often, the media describe Hetch Hetchy as the source of San Francisco's water. It is not the source. It is a storage tank - holding about 1/4 of San Francisco's supply. And it does not belong in Yosemite National Park.