Dam Removal in the Pacific Northwest: Lessons for the Nation

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION
II. THE ELWHA RIVER: REMOVAL OF THE ELWHA AND GLINES CANYON DAMS
    A. Damming the Elwha River.
       1. Construction of the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams
       2. The Decline of the Elwha River Ecosystem
    B. FERC Relicensing, Political Compromise, and Dam Removal Efforts
       1. Relicensing the Dams
       2. Political Compromise and Funding for Removal
       3. The Removal
    C. Restoring the Elwha River
III. THE WHITE SALMON RIVER: REMOVING THE CONDIT DAM
    A. Condit Dam Construction
    B. The Federal Power Act, Relicensing, and Dam Removal Efforts
       1. The Federal Power Act and FERC Relicensing
       2. The 1999 Agreement, Federal and State Regulatory Approval,
          and License Forfeiture
       3. The Dam Removal Process
    C. Restoring the White Salmon River
IV. THE SANDY RIVER BASIN: DECOMMISSIONING THE BULL RUN HYDROELECTRIC
    PROJECT
    A. The Little Sandy and Marmot Dams
    B. The Settlement Agreement to Remove the Dams
       1. The Settlement Agreement and FERC License Surrender
       2. The Removal Procedures
    C. Restoring the Sandy River Basin
V. THE ROGUE RIVER: RESTORING THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVER
    A. Fragmenting the River: Dams Throughout the Rogue Basin
       1. Savage Rapids Dam
       2. Gold Hill Dam
       3. Gold Ray Dam
       4. Elk Creek Dam
    B. Restoring the Rogue River
VI. THE KLAMATH RIVER BASIN: LOOKING AHEAD TO FUTURE DAM REMOVALS
    A. Setting the Stage for the Klamath Controversy
       1. Dam Building for Power
       2. Irrigating the Upper Klamth Basin
       3. Tribal Water Rights and the Disappearing Salmon
    B. Dam Removal and the Klamath Basin Agreements
       1. The Relicensing Process
       2. The Agreements
    C. Factors Affecting Dam Removal: Lessons for the Klamath
VII. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

The Pacific Northwest stands at the forefront of a new era in dam removal and river restoration. For over twenty years, the government has studied, and river advocates have championed, a policy of breaching dams that block salmon passage to spawning streams in Washington, Oregon, and California. (1) Recently removed dams and several scheduled removals indicate that long-fought efforts to remove certain dams and restore their rivers are bearing fruit. (2)

For most of the twentieth century, dam construction dominated the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. (3) Throughout the region's major river basins, dams produced hydropower, irrigation, flood control, and opportunities for recreation. (4) Yet the benefits of the dams came at high environmental costs. (5) Salmon and other anadromous fish that return from the ocean to spawn in freshwater streams encounter dams that often prevent their passage. (6) The high mortality rates caused by dams led to the listing of a number of salmon species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). (7) Inadequate fish ladders, changed hydraulic conditions, and the difficulties of downstream fish passage around the dams led many to claim that saving and replenishing salmon resources depended on removing barriers to free-flowing rivers and restoring the rivers' natural hydrology. (8)

Serious public attention turned to the prospect of removing dams in the 1990s. (9) In 1992, Congress authorized the federal purchase of the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams in Washington State for $29.5 million. (10) The Elwha Act directed the Department of the Interior to study and implement complete restoration of the Elwha River ecosystem, including the removal of the two dams (11) Two years later, in 1994, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a policy statement interpreting section 3 of the Electric Consumers Protection Act (12)--which requires FERC to give equal consideration to environmental and economic factors when licensing dams (13)--concluding that the agency could order removal of dams at the dam owner's expense. (14) Inherent in FERC's dam removal policy was the recognition that in some cases the balance of environmental and economic considerations tipped in favor of removing dams. …