Monumental Protections & a Big Step Towards Klamath Dam Removal


Oregon City, OR - On Wednesday June 16th, 2021, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved petitions to list Klamath-Trinity River Spring Chinook Salmon and Northern California Summer Steelhead under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The science was undeniable and the Commission listened to the evidence and testimony put forth by stakeholders to make their precedent-setting decision. Adding Spring Chinook and Summer Steelhead to the CA Endangered Species List will allow agencies to prioritize funding for restoration and ensure any projects in the fish’s range will have to avoid adverse impacts to the population.

“Numerous people have been focused and determined to inform the public and convince our governing bodies of the rarity and imperiled state of these magnificent fish,” said Native Fish Fellow and Geneticist, Samathana Kannry. “Now that we have established that, the real work of figuring out how to protect them begins.”

For years, researchers, tribes, nonprofits, policy makers and the community have been working to elevate protections for these historic fish of Northern California. In particular we want to acknowledge the sustained advocacy of the Karuk Tribe, the Salmon River Restoration Council, Friends of the Eel River, and Save California Salmon. We also want to acknowledge the work of Dr. Michael Miller’s genetics lab at UC Davis. These protections finally acknowledge differences between Spring/Fall Chinook and Summer/Winter Steelhead and builds momentum for a positive determination in the forthcoming federal Endangered Species Act determinations by NOAA on the Oregon Coast, Rogue, and Klamath Spring Chinook Salmon petitions.

On Thursday, June 17th, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted dam transfer of the four lower Klamath River Dams (JC Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2, and Iron Gate) to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) and the states of Oregon and California. Over the past four decades, advocates, conservationists, and tribal nations have set forth to restore a free-flowing Klamath River by removing these four lower dams. The Klamath River has been impeded by hydropower dams since 1903. This transfer of ownership from Pacific Corp to KRRC and the states was a major milestone to ensure dam removal stays on track for January 2023. A single administrative hurtle remains, as FERC oversees the environmental review process for the license surrender application, which will lead to decommissioning and removal. Public scoping for this final process will begin in July of 2021.

New protections for these iconic Northern California fish and the transfer of the dam ownership provides vital pathways to restoring abundant wild fish, free-flowing rivers, and thriving local communities in the Northern part of the state. “In light of the tragic die-off of juvenile salmon exiting the Klamath this spring, these two major actions provide much needed hope for brighter days ahead for the Klamath River, its wild fish, and communities,” said Mark Sherwood, Native Fish Society’s Executive Director.

To learn more about the waters of Northern California please contact our Southern Oregon, Northern California Coordinator Kirk Blaine at