Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

An exploratory study of the social factors of small dam removal : Chiloquin Dam at Sprague River Mile 0.87, Oregon

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  • Several reports related to dams and dam removal have been released this decade by non-governmental organizations including Dam Removal: Science and Decision Making by The Heinz Center which focused on small dams, since most of the dams removed to date as well as those likely to be removed in the near future fall into this category. The report found that there is a need for case study social research on small dam removal. Accordingly, this thesis seeks to identify the social and policy factors that influenced the decision to remove Chiloquin Dam on the Sprague River, Oregon. This irrigation diversion dam was constructed from 1914-1918 for the Klamath Tribes under the federal Indian Irrigation Service program and subsequently transferred to the Modoc Point Irrigation District in 1973, after termination of the Tribes by the federal Government. Chiloquin Dam was identified in a 1988 Endangered Species Act listing as a primary factor in Lost River and shortnose sucker species decline, a species of cultural significance for the Klamath Tribes. Although early reports, including those by Klamath Project irrigators, called for improved fish passage at Chiloquin Dam, it was not until jeopardy biological opinions triggered a shut off of water to the federal irrigation project in 2001, that Chiloquin Dam became a priority. Directed by legislation, the United States Bureau of Reclamation convened stakeholders in the Chiloquin Dam Fish Passage Study for nine months in 2002-2003 to determine a preferred alternative for fish passage, of which dam removal was recommended. To identify the social and policy factors that influenced the Chiloquin Dam removal decision, 21 informants were interviewed including participants in the Fish Passage Study as well as those involved in the 1988 Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing. Among the findings, respondents perceived that the ESA was the driving policy force, along with tribal restoration (the tribal trust responsibility) in the dam removal decision. Modoc Point Irrigation District members (Off-project) and tribal respondents believe that the dam removal was motivated by political support for Klamath Project irrigators. Despite these beliefs and divergent expectations for Chiloquin Dam fish passage, with the political imperative and resources, an agreement was reached in which each party had their needs addressed. An analysis using the social construction model found that the events of 2001 threatened to push irrigation interests from a powerful advantaged political position. The Fish Passage Study presented capacity and inducement instruments that responded to irrigation and tribal concerns and may also serve to restore the irrigation position as an advantaged social construction. Overall, uncertain science, differing beliefs of what dam removal would mean, and a lack of political priority served to delay action on fish passage at Chiloquin Dam from the ESA listing in 1988.
  • Keywords: Klamath Water Users, Klamath Basin, Klamath Tribes, Dam Removal, Chiloquin Dam, Social Construction of Target Populations
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