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World’s Largest Dam Removal Project Underway

Fishing jumping above water near dam

jennife/AdobeStock.com

An agreement finalized in November 2020 between farmers, tribes and dam owners will result in the deconstruction of four aging, inefficient dams along the Klamath River in the Pacific Northwest to restore salmon runs that have been in decline. The Karuk and Yurok tribes have relied on the salmon for both sustenance and spiritual well-being throughout their history. The project also signals a decline in the hydropower industry, which does not seem as profitable as predicted with the emergence of more cost-effective and sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The World Commission on Dams released a report in November 2000 on the enormous financial, environmental and human costs and poor performance of large dams. The commission analyzed dozens of case studies and more than 1,000 testimonies regarding the outcome of trillions of dollars invested in dams. After decades of rapid construction, only 37 percent of the world’s rivers remain free-flowing. River fragmentation has heavily damaged freshwater habitats and fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people and advancing the decline of other mammals, birds and reptiles.

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