Photo Credit: RES


When a crew wraps up work on a new bridge or building, the end-product looks as good as it will ever look. But from day one, the construction project goes downhill as time and nature take their inevitable toll. 

In contrast, the day that a crew completes work on an environmental restoration site it looks the worst it will ever look. But time and nature will make it look better and better as grasses sprout, shrubs grow, and trees reach for the sky. Nature is resilient. Time is its friend.

When the Klamath dams are removed there will be thousands of barren acres where water once filled reservoirs like JC Boyle and Copco.  Tens of millions of dollars will be spent to stabilize the soils, plant native seed, shrubs, and trees, and reconnect important tributaries. A robust native revegetation program initiated during the drawdown year will promote rapid growth of grasses, shrubs, and trees that will stabilize reservoir sediments and reduce blowing dust.

Thousands of people hours will be dedicated to implementing a carefully crafted restoration plan that will include treatment of upland, riparian, and wetland habitats, and large wood placement to stabilize sediments and improve habitat for native fish while also increasing river and tributary functionality.

Ragsdale Creek, February 2019: A group of people lean over, laboring in a creek that winds through a muddy field. A stand of barren trees edges the frame.

Restoration actions will commence as soon as the slow and controlled drawdown of the reservoirs is completed, which is anticipated to occur during the spring or early summer. Priority areas will be planted with trees and shrubs, with species tailored to the location within the reservoir and proximity to streams and expected wetlands. Near the homes around Copco Lake, the exposed reservoir sediments will be seeded with native seed, planted with bare-root seedlings, and the riparian areas immediately adjacent to the river and creek channels will receive an increased density of trees where appropriate to provide sediment cover and habitat restoration. The sites will be monitored for several years to ensure revegetation success, implement control of invasive species, and the performance of other necessary actions to restore the landscape.

Ultimately, the combination of dam removal and site restoration will restore free-flowing river conditions and volitional fish passage to more than 400 miles of currently blocked fish habitat upstream of the lower-most dam, Iron Gate.

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) selected RES, the nation’s premier environmental restoration company, to lead the revegetation and ecosystem plans for this ambitious effort. RES has agreed to ensure the restoration effort meets ecological and biological performance standards and long-term goals and objectives. RES is leading design efforts for the restoration of nearly four miles of priority tributary streams and associated fish habitat, as well as vegetation restoration for approximately 2,000 acres of previously inundated lands.

Restoring volitional fish passage to hundreds of miles of the Klamath River, once the third largest producer of salmon on the West Coast, will be an important achievement for this large, complex project. Area tribes have relied on salmon as a vital resource for generations; rehabilitation of salmon and steelhead populations is not only environmentally important but critical to sustaining their culture.

Ragsdale Creek, June 2019: Flooded grasslands stretch back towards a stand of green shrubs and trees. A creek winds its ways through the taller grasses.

Over time, the thousands of treated acres will be covered in native vegetation, the river will run free, water quality will improve, and salmon and steelhead numbers will start to rebound. It will be a healthier landscape, rich with opportunities for recreation, fishing, and simply enjoying the marvel of an epic fish recovery and ecosystem restoration effort. 

When you plant a tree, you are giving a gift to future generations. Restoring the Klamath River will take time, but our children and grandchildren will one day enjoy its beauty and thank us.