It was hard to miss the symbolism this week when a member of the Yurok Tribe planted the first acorn – and a bright orange flag – in the sediment of Iron Gate Reservoir.

Richard Green had the honor of digging the first hole and gently pressing an acorn in place as photojournalists captured the moment and reporters from the New York Times and other media outlets took notes. The restoration of Iron Gate Reservoir had officially begun.

After decades of advocacy, lobbying, lawsuits, administrative hearings, demonstrations, and so much more, the first hydroelectric reservoir is slowly draining away in preparation for dam removal.

The Yurok Tribe is working hand-in-hand with RES, the restoration contractor for the Klamath dam removal project, to revegetate the footprints of the former reservoirs.

And they are not wasting any time. Tribal crews are following the waterline down as it drops several feet per day, planting tens of thousands of acorns, hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs, plugs, and plants, and sewing billions of native seeds.

“This is a really big time for the Yurok Tribe and everyone involved,” said Richard.

Then he got back to work.

Man holding acorn
Man holding acorn