Klamath River Renewal Program

Natural Resources
Engineering services, Final design, Environmental/permitting, Construction management, Engineering during construction
Professional services
Hornbrook, California
Klamath River Renewal Corporation
why it matters

The Klamath Basin was once the third-largest salmon-producing river system on the West Coast. The decommissioning of these four dams, currently the largest removal in the world, provides an opportunity to restore a river’s health and return it to its natural free-flowing state. The first crucial step to restore the health of more than 400 miles of the Klamath River begins with the removal of the four hydroelectric dams. It will help bring salmonid populations back from the brink, create ecological resilience, and strengthen local communities.

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Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is leading this groundbreaking renewal program to remove four dams—Iron Gate, Copco No. 1 and No. 2, and J.C. Boyle—comprising the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric project. The dam removal and river restoration will be ecologically significant for fish and bird species; culturally impactful for area tribes that depend on salmon runs as a primary food source, as well as a key element of ritual and communal culture; and economically beneficial for ratepayers, residents, and the states of California and Oregon.

To ensure the successful planning and implementation of this ambitious program, KRCC selected McMillen as the Owner's Representative and Construction Manager. Our role involves providing direct oversight and facilitation of various aspects, including design, construction, demolition, and habitat restoration services on behalf of KRRC. We are also responsible for developing the budget, with a guaranteed maximum price for the progressive design-build contract. Additionally, we are coordinating the design, providing construction management, and ensuring efficient and effective dam removal strategies and construction processes. Through additional contracts, McMillen is also leading the design and construction management for related improvements, including the Fall Creek Hatchery, Yreka Water Line, and the Daggett Bridge projects. 

McMillen’s responsibilities include:

  • Guided the technical design of the dam removal and reservoir restoration aspects
  • Reviewed the slope stability calculations for all waste disposal sites for three dams
  • Assessed the condition of the Iron Gate Tunnel and reviewed the intended design
  • Led the Value Engineering process
  • Developed technical memos, cost estimates, and overall schedule
  • Completed design reviews including constructability reviews, and prepared design packages
  • Provided safety training and access management for site visits
  • Managed the GIS database and developed figures for reports
  • Developed a data management system that facilitated document control and resource sharing
  • Created permit management plans
  • Reviewed the wetlands and flood reports
  • Led the technical discussions with the FERC Board of Consultants (BOC), particularly the Potential Failure Mode Analysis (PFMA); brought FERC experience to the team to help guide the development of the FERC strategy and permit management plan 
  • Construction management services and environmental monitoring during the construction phase

McMillen is the driving force behind the successful collaboration between subconsultants, stakeholders, tribes, and industry experts, enabling KRRC to navigate risks and costs while achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. Our approach involved early coordination and the formation of technical working groups for key environmental and stakeholder groups, including aquatics, terrestrial, fire management, recreation, and local government. We actively sought input from stakeholders, conducting a thorough technical analysis to address their concerns and provide valuable information to propel the program forward.

With our skilled team of subject matter experts, McMillen fostered positive relationships and established effective communication channels. This resulted in a solid working relationship and an outstanding reputation with over 28 stakeholders, including USACE, California DSOD, BLM, CalTrout, Yurok Tribe, CDFW, and USFWS. Our approach proved invaluable in building trust with stakeholders and agencies, as we involved them in the alternatives development and evaluation process. By identifying technical and regulatory issues early in the design phase, we swiftly resolved them without impacting the critical path.

Work on the removal of Copco No. 2 structure, the smallest of the four dams, was completed in September 2023. By early November 2023, construction crews had removed diversion infrastructure, graded the river channel, performed erosion control, and completed the removal process. The three remaining dams will be removed next year, with the slow draining of the reservoirs scheduled to begin in January 2024. The process, known as drawdown, is expected to last until spring, depending on spring runoff. Once the drawdown is complete, restoration and deconstruction activities will significantly increase. All three dams are expected to be completely removed by November 2024.

“McMillen has proven to be an invaluable partner as our Owner’s Representative for the Klamath River Renewal Program. As we anticipate the transition from planning and regulatory work to project implementation, Mort McMillen continues to look ahead and help ensure the team is well positioned for project success.”

Mark Bransom

CEO, Klamath River Renewal Corporation

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