JC Boyle dam

JC Boyle dam is one of four dams along the Klamath River that are slated for removal; it is the only one in Oregon.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission on Tuesday approved an order granting transfer of four Klamath River dams and 8,000 acres of property from PacifiCorp to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation.

This decision was required as part of a larger negotiated agreement to decommission and remove the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate dams, known as the Lower Klamath Project, as part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.

Earlier this month, the California, Idaho and Wyoming utility commissions also approved the transfer of ownership of the Lower Klamath Project from PacifiCorp to KRCC.

“Given the high expected cost to relicense and continue operating these dams, the likelihood that the dams would generate less energy after relicensing, and the declining cost of alternative power sources, dam removal remains the least costly and risky option for PacifiCorp customers,” said PUC chair Megan Decker, in a release.

“This is an important milestone toward full implementation of the Klamath settlement,” said Stefan Bird, President and CEO of Pacific Power, the unit of PacifiCorp that serves electricity customers in Oregon, California, and Washington. “It has been a difficult summer in the Klamath Basin due to drought and extreme weather. We hope the successful implementation of the dam removal agreement will help communities in the Basin move toward a broader solution of water-related natural resource conflicts in addition to protecting electricity customers.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June 2021 approved the transfer of PacifiCorp’s operating license for the dams to the KRRC and the states of Oregon and California. The transfer of the license, and ultimate conveyance of the dams and associated property, will occur when FERC finishes an environmental review and approves a separate application from the KRRC to surrender the operating license in order to decommission and remove the dams.

Parties to the Klamath dam removal agreement are planning for dam removal to begin in 2023.

PacifiCorp submitted the original application for transfer of ownership of these dams to the PUC in 2010, but the commission at that time concluded that the decision to transfer the property was premature and should be deferred until closer to the date of the actual transfer.