Klamath Agreements Will Improve Water Quality

Implementation of the agreements would alleviate massive blooms of toxic blue green algae through removal of the lower four Klamath dams

algaeCRCC.bottle.072706The Klamath River suffers from poor water quality conditions that are caused in large part by the operation of the lower four Klamath Dams.  The reservoirs created by the dams negatively affect water temperatures in the river downstream, have incredibly low oxygen concentrations, and host massive blooms of  toxic algae each summer. 

Microcystis aeruginosa has been identified in Klamath Hyrdoproject (KHP) reservoirs and downstream all the way to the Klamath River estuary. Microcystis aeruginosa secretes microcystin, a potent liver toxin and known tumor promotor.


Summer Fishing on Iron Gate ReservoirIn fact, the reservoirs host levels of Microcystis aeruginosa that are among the highest ever observed anywhere in the world. Upstream of the KHP, Microcystis aeruginosa is rarely detected and then at very low levels. 

PacifiCorp's Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs serve as incubators that are directly responsible for the increasing levels of Microcystis aeruginosa and microcystin toxin detected in the lower Klamath River.

Microcystin toxin has been detected in resident fish tissue and fresh water mussels[1] as well as the nasal passages of recreational reservoir users[2]. Dam removal is the only sure remedy for reducing Microcystis aeruginosa blooms.  Tribes and agencies do not consider consumption of anadramous fish (salmon, steelhead, lamprey, Stugeon) to be hazardous but do urge caution when eating resident fish in the reservoirs.

Overall water quality improvements

Although the Klamath dams are a key factor in Klamath water quality impairtents, they are not the only factor. Implementation of the Klamath Agreements would  address basin wide water quality problems that otherwise would be addressed in a piecemeal fashion if at all.

Under terms of the Klamath Agreements:

  • PacifiCorp will fund a water quality conference focused on developing a comprehensive strategy for reducing nutrient loading in the Klamath Basin.[3]
  • PacifiCorp will fund over $10 million worth of on–the-ground water quality improvements – measures developed in collaboration with Tribes, conservation groups, and other stakeholders.[4]
  • The KBRA calls for over $60 million in water quality improvement measures, in particular focusing in Keno Reservoir.[5]
  • All applicable clean water laws, including the Clean Water Act, must be adhered to.


[1] Technical Memorandum – Microcystin Bioaccumulation in Klamath River Fish and Freshwater Mussel Tissue: Preliminary 2007 Results, Jacob Kann, Ph.D., 2008. 
[2] Recreational Exposure to microcystins during algal blooms in two California Lakes, Lorraine et al., Toxicon, 2009.
[3] KHSA Interim Measure 10
[4] KHSA Interim Measure 11
[5] KBRA Keno restoration funding

Featured Links:

Karuk Water Quality Monitoring Data HomeCalifornia Blue Green Algae Work Group (State Water Resources Control Board)
Dam Removal and Klamath River Water Quality: A Synthesis of the Current Conceptual Understanding and an Assessment of Data Gaps -- Stillwater Sciences for California Coastal Conservancy (Dec. 2008)
Causes and Effects of Water Quality Conditions in the Upper Klamath River -- Kier and Associates (2007)
American Rivers' Klamath Page has more Water Quality Information