The California State Water Resources Control Board in late December 2018 released its Draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed removal of three Klamath dams located in California.

While the Klamath River Renewal Corporation’s dam removal plan also includes the decommissioning of the J.C. Boyle dam, the water board’s DEIR does not discuss removal of that dam because it is located in Oregon.

The DEIR – which is well over 1,000 pages long – is available for public comment through Feb. 26 at noon. It includes an introduction and overview of the proposed project. Section three of the report covers the environmental setting, impact and mitigation measures for the project. That section is divided into 24 separate categories that include, but are far from limited to, water quality, aquatic resources, water supply and water rights, historical and tribal cultural resources, land use and planning, agriculture and forestry resources, land use and planning, population and housing, and cumulative effects.

Section 4 of the DEIR covers alternatives to the project as it is currently proposed. The first is a “no project alternative,” which describes the environment should the KRRC’s proposed project to decommission the Lower Klamath Project not proceed. Other alternatives include partial removal, continued operations with fish passage, two dam removal, and three dam removal.

On Dec. 28, Mark Bransom, Chief Executive Officer for the KRRC, issued the following statement in response to the release of the California State Water Resources Control Board’s DEIR:

“This draft report is a key step to completing this critical project and rehabilitating one of the great rivers of the American west. It’s a sign of meaningful progress and I look forward to a thorough KRRC review of the report and its proposals.

“KRRC is pleased that after considering the full range of project benefits and impacts, the DEIR looked favorably on the Proposed Project.

“As the designated lead agency for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) on the Klamath project, the SWRCB must conduct this CEQA analysis before it can issue a final Clean Water Act Section 401 permit to the KRRC for removal of the three dams in California. The 401 permit is one of several regulatory permits and approvals KRRC requires to proceed with dam removal, in addition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of KRRC’s applications for transfer and surrender of the hydroelectric license.”

The California State Water Resources Control Board states that it will evaluate and consider all responses and comments as it develops its final EIR, which is expected to be released in the summer of 2019.

A complete copy of the DEIR is available for viewing and comment at www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/water_quality_cert/lower_klamath_ferc14803_deir.html

The Draft EIR and documents incorporated by reference therein will be available for review at the following Siskiyou County locations no later than Jan. 11, according to the Water Board:

Mt. Shasta Library at 515 East Alma Street, 530-926-2031;

Siskiyou County Library at 719 4th Street in Yreka, 530-841-4175;

Butte Valley Branch Library at 800 W 3rd Street in Dorris, 530-397-4932; 

Happy Camp Library at 143 Buckhorn Road, 530-493-2964.

Public meetings

The State Water Board has scheduled four public meetings to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to get summary information and to submit oral comments on the Draft EIR at the following locations and times:

• Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Best Western Miner’s Inn, 122 E. Miner Street in Yreka;

• Wednesday, Feb. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. at D Street Neighborhood Center, 1301 D Street in Arcata;

Thursday, Feb. 7, from noon to 3 p.m. at Karuk Tribe Council Chambers, 37960 Highway 96 in Orleans; and

• Friday, Feb. 15, from 1 to 4 p.m. at CalEPA Building, Sierra Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, 2nd Floor in Sacramento.

The Water Board says the Sacramento meeting will be webcast live on the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) website at: www.calepa.ca.gov/broadcast/. During the webcast, participants can submit comments via electronic mail to: wr401program@waterboards.ca.gov.