Oregon State University begins a unique partnership this month, joining a local tribe to study the impact of removing four Klamath River dams.  Removing the dams built between 1918 and 1962 will be a massive undertaking.

“By a number of measures, it is the largest restoration, the largest dam removal in history, globally.”

Water Resources Engineering Professor Desiree Tullos is leading the project for OSU to study the impacts.

“Document how the system is changing as it undergoes this dam removal; the changes in water quality, water quantity, how does that impact the food web?  Things like algae, the cyanobacteria, how does that translate into disease risk for salmon? Or whitewater recreationalists? Or the tribes to perform their ceremonies.”

Over the next five years, school officials will collaborate with the Yurok Tribe, in a first-of-its kind partnership.

“And it’s a big piece of what we’re trying to do, which is to document, not just the western science, but also the tribal knowledge and the tribal processes. How do they make decisions? How do they understand the system?”

And Tullos said she hopes to use the data to inform future dam removal plans.

“There’s just not a ton of research out there that shows how the full food web responds when you have a big change in water quality.  If I can say anything about what I expect, I expect to be surprised.”

Those four Klamath River dams provide hydroelectric power for PacifiCorp, but don’t meet current fish passage guidelines.  Managers determined decommissioning the dams was more cost effective than paying for the needed upgrades.

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