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Image: Peter Flood

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Klamath River Dams Update: One Step Away from Finally Being Removed!

Orca graphic

The Southern Resident orcas are a true “Pacific Northwest” community, living in the waters off British Columbia, Canada to Northern California, and relying almost totally on salmon – a cultural and ecological icon of this region.  The orcas’ dependence on salmon means their future is deeply connected to the state of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. 

WDC works hard to restore rivers and rebuild salmon throughout the range of the orcas – so the whales have enough food to eat year-round which will help not only sustain the Southern Resident orcas, but also help their community grow.

Led by the Tribes, groups have been advocating to breach these outdated, “deadbeat” dams for decades to restore the Klamath River. Breaching these dams is expected to increase Klamath River Chinook by up to 80%.

Historic milestones were met along the way: Tribes traveled to Scotland to protest the dams’ owners, PacifiCorp, eventually gaining their support for breaching.  Groups who are usually at odds with each other over water rights  have reached groundbreaking agreements.  California and Oregon committed to removing the dams, replacing them with an alternative, and restoring the river.  The journey has been full of ups and downs, setbacks and hopeful moments – and now, after years of advocacy, the end is almost here.

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Support WDC's work to protect Southern Resident orcas

WDC has been honored to join these advocates in recent years on behalf of the Southern Residents and add our voice to breach the dams. 

We brought attention to how the orcas would benefit from a healthy Klamath River, and the urgent need to increase the food available for the whales ASAP.  We’ve delivered thousands of signatures to the dams’ owners in support, worked with Senators to move legislation forward, and met with policymakers to talk about the connection to the whales.

Finally, the federal agency that oversees dam operations and decommissioning has completed the LAST environmental analysis needed before the ONE FINAL permit can be issued to breach the dams. 

And, no surprise, they’ve determined that removing the dams provides “many significant benefits” to the Klamath River and its salmon.

This is a significant and very welcome conclusion to the Tribes that have long called for these dams to go and to the conservation groups like WDC who have worked for decades to restore the Klamath River.  WDC will be joining many others in one final round of public comments, speaking up in strong support of dam breaching. We’re confident that the final decision will be in favor of a free-flowing river, healthy salmon, and more food for Southern Resident orcas.

When approved, this will be the largest dam removal project in the history of the United States.

This is a big win that took decades.  For WDC, it was years of advocacy – and you’ve been with us the whole way.  Because of supporters like you remaining committed over many (many!) years, adding your name to petitions, sharing stories about the Southern Residents, sending emails, and funding our work, we’re able to meet with decision-makers, provide input, and highlight the science on Southern Resident orcas.  We can only do these things with the help of people who care about the Southern Residents and their future.

Thank you for supporting our work to protect orcas!

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