Photo Credit: Wingspan Media


Ever since the installation of ecologically destructive hydroelectric dams in the early 20th century Klamath River Basin communities have sought the Klamath River’s restoration via their removal. This process has been fueled by the interests of the Basin’s Tribes, commercial and recreational fisheries groups, ranchers, farmers, and environmental groups, to name a few. Efforts to have the dams removed have been cataloged by regional and state news agencies for over a century. Not surprisingly, the fight to remove the dams has made its way into national and international news media over the last several weeks.

Good Morning America showcased the struggle to restore Klamath River salmon populations in their November 12th episode. The morning television program broadcast by ABC opened the segment with a brief overview of the where the Klamath River is and the history of its fisheries. It showed Cultural Biologist and Karuk tribal member Ron Reed catching salmon with a dipnet and speaking about the juvenile fish kill of this past spring. Reed described the dramatic decline in fisheries as experienced by Karuk people noting that he has witnessed the collapse of salmon runs in his lifetime.

Research scientist Lisa Crozier also contributed to the vignette by describing ecological factors impacting salmon populations on the Klamath River. She described the health of salmon populations as “the canary in a coal mine,” illustrating the ways that salmon fishery health indicates the overall stability of the ecosystems they inhabit. The piece describes how the ongoing drought is contributing to the degeneration of fisheries and the landscape of the Klamath River Basin as a whole.

The Klamath River Basin and undamming efforts made international news in Al Jazeera’s piece “‘If the fish die, the people die’: Water wars in America’s West.” The Qatari news service’s article focused on the conflict surrounding water rights in the Upper Klamath Basin and draws on interviews with Tribal activists and farmers both of whom have deep-seeded interests in how the Basin’s water is used.

The article illustrates the history behind the formation of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the ways in which involved parties, who may have historically been at odds with one another, chose to join forces to pursue the restoration of the Klamath River. It also shows the ways that some refuse to negotiate with their neighbors about water issues and focuses on some of the ways racism has contributed to the conflict.

These are not the first examples of national and international media turning an eye towards the struggle to undam the Klamath River and restore its interlinking ecosystems. They are simply the most recent. Hopefully, as we get closer to the removal of the dams in January of 2023, we will see dam removal getting more and more of attention from national and international media outlets. Dam removal in the Klamath River Basin should stand as an example of the power of communities to reconnect and reinvigorate their homes via collaborative efforts.