Image by B. ‘Toastie’ Oaster from “What would a healthy Klamath River look like?”, High Country News. Used with permission.

Allen, David N. “The Klamath hydroelectric settlement agreement: Federal law, local compromise, and the largest dam removal project in history.” Hastings W.-Nw. J. Envt’l L. & Pol’y 16 (2010): 427.

  • Comprehensive overview of the legal development that guides dam licensing processes. Connects key judicial decisions to the Klamath relicensing process and gives a fair context of the dam’s effects on stakeholders in the region. The article details the Klamath relicensing discourse and the eventual decision to not license the dam. Good overview of the history of Klamath dam removals.

Dorning, Sandra. “Klamath and Snake river dam removal: Using contextualism to reevaluate an outdated technology.” Journal of Science Policy & Governance 12.1 (2018): 1-1

  • Ecological and economic discourses for/against dam removal inherent contradict each other across worldviews and valuation of natural/economic factors. “As strong as the arguments made by either side may seem, debate over the relative costs and benefits of dam removal is fundamentally unproductive in that it is an argument between two groups, broadly, with incompatible perspectives.” Offers a contextualist approach in which dam removal for/against each other can productively interact to produce a meaningful outcome. In the case of the Lower Snake and Klamath rivers, this approach is necessary to reach a comprehensive conclusion.

Fox, Coleen A., Francis J. Magilligan, and Christopher S. Sneddon. “You kill the dam, you are killing a part of me”: Dam removal and the environmental politics of river restoration.” Geoforum 70 (2016): 93-104.

  • Paper built around the central question: how do conflicts shape a region’s political ecology? How does contention surrounding dam removal create or destroy avenues for future compromise, and shape divisions between regional stakeholders? The idea is that different perceptions of nature inform different opinions of what should and shouldn’t happen in regard to dammed landscapes. For many, the dammed landscape constitutes the “natural,” within which is tied the historical identification to the structure itself. On the other hand, perceptions that identify “unaltered” or “untouched” landscapes as “natural” are typically proponents of dam removal. Often these voices come from, or are supported by, outsiders to the community on which dam removal would have most effect, which quickly polarizes the situation into an “us vs them” discourse. The contradictory nature of these perspectives often result in dam removals becoming a somewhat tricky political involvement. To overcome this, environmental politics should focus “on people’s daily engagements with their landscapes and responses to interventions that are perceived as threats to those landscapes.” That is, taking all perspectives into account as equal, and searching for compromise in solutions rather than an either/or.

Genzoli, Laurel, and Jacob Kann. “Extent and Distribution of Anatoxin-a in the Klamath River: A Review of Toxin Monitoring and Benthic Cyanobacteria Observations.” (2020).

  • 14-year study measuring the prevalence of anatoxin-a, a toxic substance produced by cyanobacteria, between the estuary and hydroelectric extent parts of the river. It associates most anatoxin-a in the Klamath river to hydroelectric reservoir cyanobacteria and outlines public health interventions to prevent exposure to this toxic substance.

Gosnell, Hannah, and Erin Clover Kelly. “Peace on the river? Social-ecological restoration and large dam removal in the Klamath basin, USA.” Water Alternatives 3.2 (2010).

  • Research outlining the history of Klamath dams which pays special attention to the disregard of native voices and perspectives in the process. The article concludes that the dam removal process has been intertwined with the growing recognition of indigenous voices within the region’s natural resource management politics. Much of this has to do with the cultivation of cross-cutting relationships between the tribe and other political, economic, and non-governmental stakeholders. The study concludes that there has been a shift in perception between the region’s stakeholders regarding how and for whom natural resources are managed—where there once was antagonism, there now is an openness to collaborate.

Guarino, Julia. “Tribal advocacy and the art of dam removal: The Lower Elwha Klallam and the Elwha Dams.” American Indian Law Journal 2.1 (2013): 114-145.

  • A detailed account of the history of Elwha dam removal with a particular focus on the lower Klallam tribe’s integral involvement in the process. It constructs a narrative that is largely political in nature, stipulating that the tribe’s success was built on 20 years of networking that was relied upon for the funding & contracting that allowed the removal to go smoothly. Dam removal goes along with ecosystem restoration management, with which the lower Klallam tribe is closely involved

Hamilton, John B., et al. “Distribution of anadromous fishes in the upper Klamath River watershed prior to hydropower dams—a synthesis of the historical evidence.” Fisheries 30.4 (2005): 10-20.

  • This article synthesizes several newspaper articles, fisheries reports, and anecdotal stories taken before the construction of the hydroelectric dams on the Klamath to investigate the extent of Chinook, Steelhead, and Pacific Lamprey species dam construction. It concludes that these three species were certainly present in the region above the dams prior to their construction.

King, T.F. 2004. First salmon: The Klamath cultural riverscape and the Klamath River hydroelectric project. Hoopa, CA, US: Klamath River Intertribal Fish and Water Commission.

  • A comprehensive assessment of a number of mainstay articles that pertain to the effect of hydroelectric projects on the Klamath river and their effect on the river ecosystem and associated tribal communities. The article makes the case that the Klamath “riverscape” is, and ought to be considered, a historical cultural landmark and accordingly should be afforded all the protections that the distinction brings.

Kruse, Sarah A., and Astrid J. Scholz. “Preliminary economic assessment of dam removal: The Klamath River.” Ecotrust, Portland, Oregon (2006).

  • Cost-benefit analysis of dam removal on the socioeconomic sectors of the Klamath basin. This is a preliminary analysis—which is restricted by the availability of precise data regarding the subject. Study suggests many positives for the region and a few negatives—mostly regarding PacifiCorp’s disbursements toward dam deconstruction and uncertainty regarding property rights for reservoir-adjacent homeowners.

Lundberg, Emma and Druschke, Caroline Gottschalk and Lehrer, Alicia. “Chapter Four: Reimagining Dam Removal to Resist Settler Colonial Logics.Water, Rhetoric, and Social Justice (2020): 89-108.

  • Great chapter tackling a concerning issue. Crafts a narrative ensconcing dam removal within the broader story of settler-colonial dynamics. Dams erase, dispossess, and unilaterally change the physical landscape for the benefit of colonizers. They persist, even if functionally irrelevant, as monuments to settler power, and are physically, environmentally, culturally, and symbolically relevant to discussions of decolonization as physical manifestations of ongoing domination that need to be destroyed. Presents a case study of Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) and their efforts to reclaim their river despite unfavorable conditions for restoration as evaluated by settler-colonial institutions. The article concludes that this scenario can serve as a blueprint for future unsettling of settler-colonial institutions for the purpose of watershed/river restoration.

Oaster, B “Toastie.” “Salmon are nosing at the riverbanks trying to escape the Klamath River.High Country News (2022).

  • A short article detailing the effects of sediment influx due to landslides caused by summer fires. Presents the visceral image of salmon nosing at the banks of the river in an attempt to escape lethal anoxic water. Outlines the dam removal process going forward and “high-hope” expectations for the community and the fish.

Oaster, B “Toastie.”What would a healthy Klamath River look like?High Country News. Dec 1, 2021.

  • Illustration of a balanced Klamath River ecosystem.

Perry, Russell W., et al. “Simulating water temperature of the Klamath River under dam removal and climate change scenarios.” US Geological Survey Open-File Report 1243 (2011): 78.

  • USGS analysis simulating water temperatures under status quo and dam removal scenarios using historical hydrologic data. Suggests that dam removal will decrease water temperature between 1 – 4 degrees Celsius depending on distance from dam removal sites.

Ramos, Max M., and Darren M. Ward. “Modeling the reestablishment of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in Klamath River tributaries after dam removal.” Ecology of Freshwater Fish (2022).

  • A study that predicts the influence of tributary access to the Coho salmon population after dam removal. Study concludes that the dam removal will allow for around 100,000 new Coho salmon to spawn due to Klamath tributary access. Lastly, it urges the proper protection and management of the tributary environments.

Salter, John F. “White Paper on Behalf of the Karuk Tribe of California.” A Context Statement Concerning the Effect of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project on Traditional Resource Uses and Cultural Patterns of the Karuk People Within the Klamath River Corridor (2003): 1-82.

  • A comprehensive assessment including historical, ethnographic, and interview data to come to the conclusion that hydroelectric dams on the Klamath river should be removed. The reasoning states that hydroelectric dams are a present and ever worsening problem that disconnects tribal communities from their cultural resources as well as destroys historical, cultural, and environmental connections to the Klamath river.

Shaffer, J. Anne, et al. “Large-scale dam removals and nearshore ecological restoration: lessons learned from the Elwha dam removals.” Ecological Restoration 35.2 (2017): 87-101.

  • Review article emphasizing the importance of developing nearshore ecological restoration methods to go along with dam removals. Nearshore impacts are known—salt wedge intrusion. Gaps in data and other impacts are not well understood. Half of the major dam removals in the last two decades have not included nearshore impacts in their EISs—only the Elwha EIS attempts to address its nearshore impacts, but implementations are not sufficiently scoped.

Smith, Anna. “The effort to save Upper Klamath Lake’s endangered fish before they disappear.” High Country News. (2021).

  • Article details the effects of water use and drought in the upper Klamath and expands the issue of dams in the mid-Klamath to the upper Klamath and Klamath lake. Warm water and agricultural usage has endangered native sucker species–a culturally important resource to the Klamath Tribes. Removing dams in the mid-Klamath will help this issue and also better position the Klamath tribes to restore the vitality of Klamath lake.

Trent, Sarah. “When dams come down, fish come home.High Country News. Nov 8, 2022.

  • Brief overview of recent dam removal trends. Jeff Duda (USGS ecologist) suggests that physical changes (sediment redistribution and water movement) happen quickly (years rather than decades). Ecological changes have different time scales, with upstream fish migration being one of the first to occur within weeks of months. Multigenerational change has yet to be studied, but the cascade of change is already being seen on the Elwha, for example (nutrients from adult fish upstream, sediment release reversing coastal erosion at mouth of river). Ex. in this article: removal of Mill Creek dam (ft. Semperiverns fund and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, who are now funded to use traditional knowledge to protect California coastline. 

Thanks to Nathaniel Ramos (Stanford University) and Cole Dill-De Sa (Stanford University) for preparing this bibliography.

This work was conducted to support the following research project: Social Impact Assessment of Klamath Dam Removal – A Collaborative Research Initiative with the Karuk Tribe. For additional inquires, please write to