COPCO - It was 1856 when Herman Spannaus' great-grandfather settled along the Klamath River in an area that would later become Copco Lake.

Spannaus grew up on the family's cattle ranch near the lake, about two miles south of the Oregon-California border, and now is retired there.

His father and grandfather watched in 1918 as the power company built Copco No. 1 dam. It eventually would inundate their land and force the family to move their ranch upriver.

Spannaus was 8 years old when his family moved from the Copco Lake ranch. He worked as an insurance broker in Woodland, Calif., for much of his life. He keeps books and photo albums about the lake and his family's ranch to preserve some of the history.

There was no electricity; there were no tractors on the ranch. His family listened to a battery-operated radio on Sunday nights and worked the fields with teams of horses. On winter nights, the family sat around their potbelly stove eating apples from the cellar, he said.

"It's always been home, I guess," he said.

Now, nearly a century after its construction, Spannaus might see the dam breached, the lake drained and the river returned to something like its natural flow.

"It's coming full-circle, I suppose," the 74-year-old said.

Copco No. 1 is one of four Klamath River dams proposed for removal as advocated by the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. About 300 people, mostly retirees, live around Copco Lake. Many, including Spannaus, have been vocal opponents of dam removal.

Spannaus bought a house near the lake in 1987. He's served as fire chief of the Copco Lake Fire Department and president of the Copco Lake Mutual Water Company, which helps residents maintain well water supplies.

He fishes the lake for trout, bass, perch and catfish from his 12-foot aluminum boat.

"It's a beautiful place to live," he said. "We have a wonderful community."

But he and his neighbors worry. If the dam is removed, their lakefront homes will become "mudflat-front homes," Spannaus said.

Spannaus' home has lost nearly half its value. One of his neighbors couldn't hire a real estate agent because none wanted to try to sell his Copco Lake home. Residents there say the threat of dam removal, more than the recession, is the reason their property values have sunk.

The decision process for dam removal has been frustrating, Spannaus said. He thinks PacifiCorp, which owns the dams, has been coerced into removing them. PacifiCorp officials say removing the dams will cost the company less than adding fish ladders and screens.

He does not think salmon and steelhead will return to the Upper Klamath Basin as dam removal proponents say. He worries most about what will happen to the 20 million cubic yards of silt said to have accumulated behind the dam.

"I think the whole idea is a fantasy," he said.