Lower Klamath Dam and River State of Emergency declared

KLAMATH COUNTY, Ore. — The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors has declared a state of emergency because of water quality issues in the Lower Klamath Dam and River.


Presence of Heavy Metals Will Dissipate

But the presence of heavy metals in the water is to be expected and will dissipate, says a spokesman of the California North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CNCRWQCB).

Matt St. John says high levels of metals such as arsenic and lead are short-term impact that were expected to occur after the start of the Lower Klamath Dam removal project in which fours dams along the river will be removed.

St. John says heavy metals have accumulated in sediment behind the dam walls but describes this as a short-term impact that will dissipate as sediments are flushed further down the river and a more natural eco-system evolves.

St. John says the water in the Klamath dams and river poses no threat to public health or to recreational activities.

Despite these assurances, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a state of emergency. The decision was taken after listening to public opinion raised during a six-hour telephone conference. County Board members heard reports about toxic metals causing the death of fish, trapping deer in mudflats, and posing health hazards. The public raised fears about the safety of drinking water and said the condition of the Klamath River would impact tourism.

Related: Klamath Dam Removal: Loss Of Copco Lake Leaves Some Residents Reeling

The Siskiyou County Board will ask California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a county-wide state of emergency to make money available to cope with the disaster.



St. John describes the presence of heavy metals in water samples as a snapshot of water quality relevant to late January when the highest levels of inorganic chemicals and metals were expected to be recorded. He says this will not represent water quality at the end of March.

One of the primary primary objectives of the Klamath Dam removal project is to restore the health and number of salmon populations in the river.

The heavy metals will not leach into groundwater wells.

St. John says the Klamath River is not the source of drinking water for any communities, negating safety concerns.

The CEO of the nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation, Mark Bransom, says the dam removals will have many long-term benefits.

The Klamath Dam Removal project is taking place on the border of Oregon and California.

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  1. Sharon says

    So only the fish mattered. Not humans or wild horses or deer or elk OR was it all about money? Only Bransom can answer that and I’m sure he’s on to bigger and more destructive projects!

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