Today, the Klamath basin’s hydrologic system consists of a complex of inter-connected rivers, lakes, marshes, dams, diversions, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. Alterations to the natural hydrologic system began in the late 1800s, accelerating in the early 1900s, including water diversions by private water users, water diversions by the Klamath Project operated by Reclamation, and by several hydroelectric dams operated by a private company, PacifiCorp. The first PacifiCorp development was constructed in 1918 (Copco Dam) on the Klamath and it operated under a 50-year license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) until the license expired in 2006. Although Reclamation’s Link River Dam and PacifiCorp’s Keno Dam currently have fish ladders, none of PacifiCorp’s dams were constructed with fish ladders sufficient to pass anadromous fish and, as a result, salmon and steelhead have effectively been blocked from accessing the upper reaches of the basin for close to a century. Beginning in 1956, Iron Gate Reservoir (the lowest dam in the system) flow releases were generally governed by guidelines outlined within the FERC license, commonly referred to as “FERC minimum flows.” FERC’s original license to PacifiCorp to operate its hydroelectric project on the Klamath River never underwent Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation.
After reviewing the current status of SONCC coho salmon and its critical habitat, the environmental baseline for the action area, the effects of the Project and the cumulative effects, it is NMFS’ biological opinion that the action, as proposed, is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of SONCC coho salmon, and is likely to destroy or adversely modify SONCC coho salmon designated critical habitat.Keyword Tags: