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This plan to remove these dams emerged after years of negation between the Yurok — the largest tribe in California — environmental organizations, and PacifiCorp, the corporation which operates these dams.
Salmon are integral to the way of life for the Yurok people. As Annelia Hillman of the Klamath Justice Coalitionexplained to NPR, “When we can’t be in our river, can’t eat our fish, it kind of takes our purpose away. We have one of the highest suicide rates … and I think that’s directly correlated to our lack of salmon and our inability to continue our way of life.”
Leading By Example: While hydroelectric power is an emissions-free energy source, it’s also important to consider the effects dams have on surrounding ecosystems and the people who have depended on those ecosystems. This effort to remove dams is unprecedented — dams are traditionally expensive and difficult to take down. But this project could set a precedent.
Amy Cordalis, a Yurok tribal leader, told the BBC: “I think one of the coolest parts about this whole project is we’re setting a precedent for the world to follow. I think the approach of working together with the company, with states, with tribes, with environmentalists, to reach an agreement that allows these dams to be removed for the tribes and for American citizens to benefit from the restoration of this river in a way that costs less money than it would be to relicense [the dams] – that’s really a model of how you might approach sustainable river restoration across the world.”
What a Biden Admin Means for the Klamath: As the Herald and News reported, the last three presidential administrations have been considerably active in Klamath Basin issues regardless of political party.
Negotiations for a basin-wide agreement began under the Bush Administration and continued under the Obama Administration until faltering in the House of Representatives — though each president’s approach has varied.
So how do the Yurok people surmise President-elect Joe Biden might handle basin issues?
Paul Simmons, executive director of Klamath Water Users Association, told the Herald and News that he’s paying special attention to who Biden chooses to lead departments that oversee Klamath Basin science and irrigation operations, particularly The Department of the Interior, which includes the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Fish and Wildlife Service. Despite changes at the top of these organizations, personnel in local offices won’t change.
“I’m confident there will be people that we can work with,” Simmons said. “Administrations are going to continue to change, and we’re not going anywhere.”
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