Restoring at Scale > Klamath River Restoration

Klamath River Renewal Project


Restoring Balance

In partnership with Swiftwater Films, RES has produced Restoring Balance, a short film charting restoration plans integral to the largest dam removal and river restoration project in U.S. history. The film conveys the story of a partnership between RES and tribal communities who are working together to heal the severely degraded Klamath River.

Restoration Planning


Restoring critical salmon habitat

The Klamath River and its tributaries were once home to the third-largest salmon population in the West. But four aging hydroelectric dams, some a century old, cut off access to more than 400 stream miles of historical anadromous fish habitat. Fall Chinook Salmon numbers have plummeted more than 90 percent from their pre-dam numbers, and the Spring Chinook run is only a memory. Extinction of some remaining fish populations is a very real threat.

But a big change is coming. The Klamath dams are scheduled to be removed in 2023 and 2024. RES is leading a massive restoration effort integral to what will be the largest dam removal and river renewal project in US history – a task vital to the future of several imperiled salmon populations. When we finish our work, salmon and steelhead will once again have access to not only the Klamath, but also tributaries, including the Sprague, Williamson, and Wood Rivers of southern Oregon.


It’s a massive effort, building on decades of scientific study and stakeholder engagement

Leading the overall project is RES’ client, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC). Their sole mission is to remove the Lower Klamath Project Dams, restore volitional fish passage, improve water quality, and ensure restoration of the project footprint.  All of this benefits the fish, the larger river ecosystem, and the native tribes and local communities who depend on strong, abundant salmon runs and a thriving river.


Laying a strong foundation

RES has already performed a significant amount of work in the years leading up to the removal of the dams. Detailed restoration designs have been crafted, building on the strong foundations set during earlier planning and ecological studies. Our seed collection crews – many of whom are members of local tribes with deep ties to the land and river — have harvested native seeds each season since 2019.

Those seeds have been planted in specialized nurseries in several western states, resulting in billions of additional native seeds and tens of thousands of native plants and oak trees. We have deployed a team that includes national and local experts in botany, ecology, geomorphology, fisheries, stream and river restoration, and project management. The team understands what is at stake, and they are deeply committed to success.


A comprehensive restoration approach

The pace will pick up even more after the dam removal team completes their work. RES will launch a comprehensive restoration effort for the river, streams, and lands impacted by the former reservoirs. RES will directly restore the areas in and around the four reservoir footprints. At the same time, we’ll be monitoring the river’s recovery over a much larger geographic area, reaching from the uppermost reservoir, created by the JC Boyle Dam in Oregon, all the way to the mouth of the Klamath River on the California coast.

RES will revegetate thousands of acres of the former reservoir footprints. We’ll also restore several miles of high-priority tributaries, fully reopening a critical part of historical salmon and steelhead spawning habitats.

RES is leading this restorative effort in close collaboration with state and federal agencies, conservation groups, and area tribes who have stewarded this ecosystem for millennia.


RES is taking responsibility

RES is bringing its hallmark principles of performance-based contracting to this epic project. RES has worked with the KRRC, the states of California and Oregon, and the owner of the dams to develop a unique contractual structure that transfers responsibility to RES for achieving the project’s long-term restoration goals.


Before & After

Restoring Vegetation and Tributaries: Copco Lake Interactive Example


Project Scope & Metrics

  • Revegetation of 2,200 acres of formerly submerged ground set to be exposed following reservoir drawdown
  • Design, construction, and long-term management of 18,000 feet (3.4 miles) of high-priority tributaries
  • Vegetative stabilization of any sediment that is not transported downriver, using native plant species
  • Long-term stewardship, including monitoring and adaptive management of all of the above in addition to volitional fish passage throughout the reservoir footprints, for a period of years until the restoration goals have been met


Related Resources


Restoring at Scale Docuseries

StoryMap: Preparing the Klamath for Dam Removal for World Fish Migration Day, 2020

Project FAQs

Klamath River Restoration Press Release


Local Employment

RES will be hiring local employees and contractors for this project. If you are interested in employment, contact us.

As the restoration nears, we will update employment opportunities on this page.