Before 1921, the Link River in Klamath Falls sometimes would flood and sometimes run dry as water rose and fell below a natural rock formation that dammed Upper Klamath Lake.
That year, PacifiCorp's predecessor, the California Oregon Power Co. (COPCO), blasted channels through the rock and completed the Link River Dam to generate hydroelectric power and control lake levels.
Today, the dam and its adjoining eastside and westside powerhouses can produce up to 3.8 megawatts of electricity, enough to power nearly 1,600 homes, according to PacifiCorp. It's a small facility compared with others on the river, like the J.C. Boyle Dam, which can generate up to 98 megawatts of power.
PacifiCorp in 2004 proposed decommissioning the Link River powerhouses rather than relicensing them, which would require adding fish screens to Link River Dam, a move that would not be cost-effective for the company, said Pacific Power regional community manager Toby Freeman.
The dam itself, owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, would remain to control lake levels and provide water for irrigation, regardless of proposals to remove four PacifiCorp dams downriver.
In 1917, PacifiCorp's predecessor COPCO struck a deal with the Bureau: the power company could operate the dam to generate hydroelectric power, and Klamath Reclamation Project irrigators would get a special power rate of less than 1 cent per kilowatt-hour.
That deal expired in 2006, allowing PacifiCorp to raise rates to tariff, the standard rate set by a state's public utilities commission: 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in Oregon and more than 12 cents in California.
If the Link River powerhouses are decommissioned, the Bureau would take control of the Link River Dam, Freeman said.
If so, the flow line to the eastside powerhouse, a nearly 100-year-old wooden tube that can be seen spewing water, would be removed. The open canal to the westside powerhouse likely would be filled.
The future of the nearby PacifiCorp-owned Link River Trail is unsettled, but the city of Klamath Falls expressed interest in preserving it, Freeman said.