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This dead right whale calf had injuries consistent with a vessel strike, including fresh propeller cuts on its back and head, broken ribs, and bruising. Photo: FWC/Tucker Joenz, NOAA Fisheries permit #18786

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Dam Good News for Southern Resident orcas

Hysazu Photography | Sara Shimazu

Pardon the pun (we’ve used it before) but we just can’t help ourselves.  After decades of advocacy by Tribes, conservation groups, and river users, the Klamath River dams are officially coming down.  This is great news for the Southern Resident orcas, who rely on Klamath River salmon as part of their seasonal diet, and a subject of WDC’s advocacy and campaigns since 2015! 

 This fall, the final permit to allow four outdated dams on the Klamath River to come down has been approved, with a goal of freeing the river by 2025.  These dams have blocked the river for more than 100 years and have had a devastating impact on Klamath River salmon, an important source of food for Southern Resident orcas.  Native Tribes in the Klamath Basin, with deep cultural ties to salmon, have led the work to “UnDam the Klamath” for decades. 

Hysazu Photography

If you are able to make a donation, it would mean the world to us.


With your help, we collected signatures to support legislation in Congress, cheered on the owners of the dams for choosing to take them down, submitted technical comments throughout the complicated permitting process, and joined education and outreach events to highlight the connection to Southern Resident orcas as Tribes and California-based organizations led the way. 

It’s been a real rollercoaster ride (read more about that here) with the usual back-and-forth of policy change plus a few cliffhanger moments that had us wondering what would happen next.  But the dedication and determination of Klamath Basin Tribes, the commitments from the states of Oregon and California, and the support of the federal government kept the process alive.  And now, we have a truly epic and hopeful conclusion.  WDC is proud to have represented the Southern Residents’ voice in the process to make sure the benefits to the whales were considered. 

This will be the largest dam removal project in the history of the U.S., and the most significant moment to date in the 21st century movement to remove “deadbeat dams.”  Work to undo the damage done by the dam building craze of the previous century has been validated by the amazing recovery of rivers after dams are taken out. 

As always, the work doesn’t stop here.  This is a huge win for Southern Resident orcas, the salmon they depend on, and the people and environment of the West Coast. 

Dam removal is the first step in the long process of restoring the Klamath River, revitalizing habitat, and bringing back its salmon.  WDC will continue to advocate for the resources and support needed to keep this amazing effort moving forward and securing a lasting and abundant source of food for Southern Resident orcas. 

We couldn’t have made it this far without you – thank you for supporting this work for nearly a decade.  This win is for you, too. 

Thank you for supporting our ongoing work to help wild orcas recover! Support this work by making a donation.

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