Klamath River Basin Chronology
1849-1850 Gold discovered in the Lower Klamath Basin. Farms and ranches established in the Scott and Shasta valleys.
1855 Klamath River Reservation established on the Lower Klamath River.
1864 Hoopa Valley Tribe and Klamath Tribes cede most of their lands for settlement but retain large reservations.
1868 Two farmers dig first irrigation ditch in the Upper Klamath Basin.
1888 California state court rules Klamath River Reservation abandoned, opening the lower river to non-Indian commercial fishing overseen by the state of California.
1891 Determination that the Yurok Tribe had abandoned its reservation is reversed and the old Klamath River Reservation is attached to the Hoopa Valley Reservation.
1905 Klamath Project authorized.
1907 First deliveries of water through Klamath Project “A” Canal.
1908 President Theodore Roosevelt creates nation’s first wildlife refuge for waterfowl, the Klamath Lake Reservation – now called Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.
1917 First opening to homesteaders of land in Klamath Project.
1918 The first dam in the Klamath Hydroelectric Project, Copco 1, becomes operational, ending salmon runs in the Upper Klamath Basin.
1921 Link River Dam completed, allowing control of water releases from Upper Klamath Lake.
1925 Copco 2 Dam becomes operational.
1928 Dwinell Dam constructed on the Shasta River, cutting off most spawning habitat to the largest Klamath Basin salmon run.
1928 Tule Lake Bird Refuge (now Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge) created.
1933 Commercial salmon fishing on Klamath River is banned; tribal gill-net fishing is prohibited.
1954 Congress terminates the Klamath Tribes’ federally recognized tribal status and liquidates its reservation lands.
1956 Klamath Project irrigators’ electricity rate contract is renewed for 50 years at the 1918 rate of 0.6 cents per kilowatt-hour; Oregon “off-Project” irrigators sign a contract for power at 0.72 cents per kilowatt-hour.
1957 Klamath River Basin Compact is approved by California and Oregon legislatures and ratified by Congress.
1958 Big Bend Dam – later J.C. Boyle Dam – is completed upstream of the Copco dams.
1962 Iron Gate Dam completed.
1963 Lewiston Dam on the Trinity River completed.
1964 Large flood on Klamath River and tributaries causes debris to block channels – a problem that persists today.
1964 Kuchel Act precludes future homesteading on refuge land; provides for continued leasing of refuge land for farming to the extent it is consistent with refuge purposes.
1965 Keno Dam constructed to replace Needle Dam on the Klamath River.
1971 Lost River and shortnose sucker identified as species of concern under California law.
1972 California designates Klamath River from Iron Gate to the ocean a Wild and Scenic River. Federal designation follows in 1981.
1973 U.S. Supreme Court rules that stretches of the Trinity and Klamath River flowing through the Hoopa and Yurok reservations are “Indian Country,” effectively restoring tribal salmon fishing rights.
1976 Oregon Water Resources Department begins Klamath Basin water rights adjudication process.
1977-78 Tribal salmon fishing resumes on Lower Klamath River, but is quickly stopped by the federal government on conservation grounds.
1983 United States v. Adair upholds Klamath Tribes’ right to enough instream water to support fishing and hunting on former reservation lands, but does not establish an amount.
1985 California state court confirms limited tribal fishing rights for Karuk Tribe at Ishi Pishi Falls.
1986 Congress passes Klamath River Basin Fishery Resources Restoration Act; the program is funded at $1 million per year.
1986 Klamath Tribes restored to federal recognition as an Indian tribal government, but former reservation lands are not returned. Karuk Tribe receives federal recognition.
1986 Klamath Tribes close their sucker fishery on Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries.
1987 Indian salmon harvest on Klamath River reopened for five years.
1988 Lost River and shortnose suckers listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
1988 Oregon Scenic Waterways Act designates the Klamath Scenic Waterway from J.C. Boyle Dam to the state line. Federal designation follows in 1994.
1988 Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act establishes the Yurok tribal government as independent from the Hoopa tribal government; the Yurok Reservation is split from the Hoopa Valley Reservation.
1990-1992 Severe decline in Klamath River salmon runs nearly closes commercial ocean salmon fishery.
1993 Federal government sets Klamath River tribal salmon fishing limit at half the total available harvest.
1996-1998 The Lost, Klamath, Salmon, Scott and Shasta rivers are listed as impaired under the federal Clean Water Act, launching regulatory steps to improve water quality.
1997 Coho salmon in Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal region listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
1998 First of several unsuccessful negotiations undertaken among some Klamath Basin water interests.
2000 PacifiCorp begins federal relicensing process for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project dams.
2001 Klamath Project irrigation water crisis.
2002 At least 34,000 salmon die near the mouth of the Klamath River in September.
2005 Multi-party negotiations that ultimately lead to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement begin in earnest.
2006 PacifiCorp’s license for Klamath Hydroelectric Project expires. The relicensing process continues; the company faces major costs to meet environmental standards required by federal regulators.
2006 Projected weak runs of Klamath River Chinook salmon force closure of the ocean salmon harvest from Monterey, California, to Southern Oregon.
2008 In January, Draft Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement released; provides for settlement of key water conflicts and calls for a major salmon restoration effort; also calls for separate agreement concerning the removal of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project dams.
In November, the United States, California, Oregon and PacifiCorp announce an agreement regarding dam removal; it is the first time the dam owner commits publicly to such a scenario.
2009 Draft Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement released.
2010 Final Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement signed. Implementation contingent on authorizing legislation, funding and environmental review.
2012 Final Klamath Dam removal EIS/EIR issued
2013 Klamath Project Biological Opinion issued
2013 With the region in drought conditions, Klamath tribes and federal government exercise water rights in the Upper Klamath Basin for the first time. This cuts off irrigation water to agricultural growers in the upper basin.
2016 Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, PacificCorp, and Oregon and California sign agreement to remove four dams on the Klamath River by 2020 following a process administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
2020 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announces that the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, created to oversee removal of four Klamath River dams, lacked the finances and experience to be the sole licensee of the four dams. To move the project forward, the states of California and Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe, PacifiCorp and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation sign a memorandum of agreement that describes how the parties will implement the amended Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, which sets the terms for the removal of the four Klamath River dams.
2020 Bureau of Reclamation announces an initial $1.2 million investment in new science for the Klamath Project.
2021 Citing extreme drought conditions and environmental needs, Bureau of Reclamation shuts the A Canal, the principal irrigation canal for the Klamath Project, meaning thousands of farmers are without water for the irrigation season.
2023 Demolition crews remove Copco No. 2, the smallest of four hydroelectric dams slated for removal from the Klamath River. The remaining dams are expected to be demolished by the end of 2024.