By Gerry O'Brien, Klamath Herald and News Editor
The Klamath River Renewal Corp. last week put out its request for proposals for removal of the four hydro-electric dams on the Klamath River: Iron Gate, Copco No. 1 and 2 in California; and J.C. Boyle in Oregon.
The request for proposal — formally known as the Dam Removal Design-Build Contract — will decide who will be the general contractor for the project, slated to be one of the largest dam removal and restoration projects in the Pacific Northwest and perhaps in U.S. history. The general contractor is expected to be named in March 2019 and removal may start in early 2021.
At a joint meeting of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce and Klamath County Economic Development Association board last Tuesday in downtown Klamath Falls, plans were outlined about the dam removal and the jobs it would create.
“We understand that this project has been controversial in our area, and we are not taking a pro or con position on dam removal,” the chamber said in a news release. “However, it appears that this project is moving forward and we believe that local businesses should benefit from it. The money will be spent, and we want as much of it as possible to be spent in our area.”
Consider that the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, or KRRC, has up to $450 million for the project. The money comes from funds appropriated by California Proposition 1 water bond funds, as well as a surcharge collected from ratepayers and customers of PacifiCorp, the current owner of dams.
KRRC is awaiting a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take ownership of the dams, due late this fall. If it is awarded, then the dams’ decommissioning timeline will start.
This will likely have huge ripple effects for jobs in the region, according to officials.
“KRRC is extremely aware that local contractors get an opportunity to work on this project,” KRRC Executive Director Mark Bransom told the audience of about 30 people, some of them contractors. “As such, KRRC is required to hire local contractors up to at least 5 percent of the so-called contract price and, also, tribal businesses up to 5 percent.”
The project is expected to create some 400 direct jobs and 1,500 support jobs. Hundreds of the trades will be affected. There will be the need for surveyors, heavy equipment operators, manual laborers, drilling and explosives experts, truck drivers, site security, road improvements and recreational site designers. Along with that comes housing, food and equipment suppliers and all the support tied to those businesses.
At present there are requests for proposals out for collecting wild seed in the area that will be used for reseeding some 8,000 acres of land that will be exposed once the reservoirs are drawn down to just riverbanks.
The drawdowns are expected to start simultaneously at all four reservoirs behind the dams, sometime between January and mid-March of the drawdown year to minimize the impact to fish downstream.
There are some 12 diversion tunnels connected to the dams that will be opened (some for the first time as they are sealed with concrete barriers) to draw down the water.
For further information on the project, and to read the 77-page RFP, go to klamathrenewal.org and follow the links.