California Dam Removal Has Opposite Effect Than Intended, Dooming Local Salmon

In classic California fashion, Gov. Gavin Newsom pushed forward a proposal that would remove four dams in the Klamath River for the native salmon population but has instead resulted in millions of cubic yards of pollution in the river.

The project was met with pushback from residents in the area but nonetheless, the four hydroelectric dams started to be disassembled in late January. This has caused decomposed algae, organic deposition, chemicals and fine silt to flood the river and heavily disrupt the native ecosystem.

The report from the California Globe noted that there is no way of knowing the exact survival rate of the younger fish until they return to their natal spawning grounds, which for one species is Fall 2025 and another will be even later.

The massive pollution increase is concerning locals that there will no longer be a proper food web for the salmon to return to when they’re adults.

Nonetheless, even without knowing the rate beforehand, it’s far from unreasonable to believe that ten million cubic yards of pollution will decrease that rate. The turbidity levels, or the clarity of the water, is estimated to become 10 to 20 times worse than what the salmon can survive in.

One species, the coho salmon, is categorized as “threatened” under the Endanger Species Act, having potentially damning ramifications for the survival of the species.

The $500 million project intended to prevent die-offs of salmon from occurring within the river by restoring the flow downriver.

The residents of the area warned that the removal of the dams would not have the intended consequences that the government hoped for with the residents pointing to the state of the ocean resulting in the lowering salmon population.

“The whole question is, will this add to the increased production of salmon? It has everything to do with what’s going on in the ocean [and] we think this will turn out to be a futile effort,” head of the Siskiyou County Water Users Association Richard Marshall stated far before the dams were removed. “Nobody’s ever tried to take care of the problem by taking care of the existing situation without just removing the dams.”