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Klamath River dam removal ecoterrorists' 'restoration' deception by 3rd generation Hornbrook rancher Rex Cozzalio, 4/2/23, regarding Capital Press article Going Natural:
Deceptive as always. Implies this 'restoration' will go on for decades. If so, it would have to come from somewhere else, as KRRC will essentially do ONLY TWO attempts at planting, one each year starting after draining the dams next year, which will likely fail based on our terrain and climate, are 'restoring native species' with a majority of plant seeds not known in the area, and they will ONLY 'monitor' for up to 5 years after to see if any. They will 'weedeat' some invasive weeds several times for those 2 years, which for several of the ones targeted is one of the best ways to ensure their survival, and they will 'irrigate' the 100+ acres out of the 1000 for their considered 'critical' areas with water TAKEN out of the Klamath river using an as yet unidentified water right. Some of the WONDERFUL 'native' plants they are going to plant include poison oak, foxtail, turkey mullein, and numerous other noxious weeds I work out every year to keep out of our property.

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Festuca idahoensis - Mallory 3684DAhttps://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/nursery/going-natural-farms-grow-native-plants-for-klamath-river-dam-removal/article_cd1e50e6-c352-11ed-96c4-1f816ab725e3.html

GOING NATURAL: Farms grow native plants for Klamath River dam removal


MOSES LAKE, Wash. — The largest dam removal project in U.S. history is about more than just tearing down four hydroelectric dams.

After years of careful planning, crews are now laying the groundwork to raze J.C. Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2 and Iron Gate dams on the Klamath River in southern Oregon and northern California, unlocking 400 miles of upstream spawning habitat for anadromous salmon.

Once the reservoirs behind those dams disappear, they will expose roughly 2,200 acres of previously submerged land and built-up sediment that must be replanted with native vegetation for birds and other wildlife, and to stabilize the riverbank.

Without swift action, the land could become a breeding ground for invasive weeds and vulnerable to erosion, which will degrade water quality and kill the very fish dam removal is intended to help.

It is a massive environmental undertaking that involves producing enough wild grasses, trees and shrubs to meet the need.

That is where farms like BFI Native Seeds play a crucial role.

The company, headquartered in Moses Lake, Wash., looks like any other commercial agricultural enterprise in the heart of the Columbia Basin. But rather than growing crops for food, it specializes in raising native plants for restoring ecologically sensitive areas.

Matthew Benson, president of BFI, said this year the farm will produce around 250 species of plants for sites throughout the West — including the Klamath River, post-dam removal.

“The amount of ground that’s going to be restored is huge, and it’s going to have a huge effect on the environment,” he said. “We’re glad to do our part to make it the best it can be.”

‘Source-identified’ seed

Benson’s family has been farming in this part of eastern Washington since the 1960s.

Originally, the farm grew vegetable and alfalfa seed near Warden, Wash., about 17 miles southeast of Moses Lake. Benson’s father, Jerry, also worked as a botanist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, helping to recover native habitat.

Through trial and error, Jerry Benson found that plants thrived when they came directly from the local environment, where they have genetically adapted to the region’s climate and soil, giving them better resilience to insects and disease.

Collecting enough seeds by hand for large-scale restoration, however, is a daunting task. Jerry Benson figured he could instead take smaller amounts of “source-identified” seeds gathered from the wild, and propagate them to scale at his farm.

Thus BFI Native Seeds was born. Incorporated in 1996, the company has provided more than 1.4 million pounds of seeds for customers over the last five years alone.

“They aren’t exactly agricultural products,” Matthew Benson said. “They’re ecological products that we use agriculture to get.”

‘A patient man’s game’

In addition to growing and cleaning seed, BFI has an entire division that works on projects from beginning to end — from initial site evaluation and planting to monitoring landscape health for decades.

“It is certainly a patient man’s game,” Benson said. “One mistake can throw the whole thing in the toilet. There’s a real need to get it right.”

For the last 20 years, BFI has worked with the federal Bureau of Land Management to rehabilitate approximately 100 acres along Duffy Creek near Wenatchee, Wash.

The property — a former dryland wheat farm later used for grazing cattle — had become crowded with crested wheatgrass, an invasive species. Site preparation began in 2003 by mowing fields and spraying moderate doses of glyphosate to kill off the invaders.

Benson said the fields were replanted with “pretty much the full gamut” of native grasses and wildflowers grown at BFI’s farm. A top priority was bolstering habitat for vulnerable populations of greater sage grouse.

Changes were gradual at first, Benson said. The fastest any project comes to fruition is typically five years.

“It definitely takes a long time,” he said. “You can spend a lot of years lost in the details, but when you come back and can say, ‘Here is a functioning habitat,’ that’s great.”

Species diversification

Benson said BFI got involved in the Klamath River Renewal Project in 2018.

Another company, called Resource Environmental Solutions, or RES, has been placed in charge of environmental reclamation tied to dam removal. RES plans to re-vegetate all 2,200 acres by planting an estimated 17 billion seeds from more than 100 species.

The Yurok Tribe, which has fought to pull out the dams to save dwindling salmon runs, is leading seed collection on the ground.

Seeds are then sent to one of five farms for propagation, including BFI more than 500 miles away.

“Once these (dam) removals take place, we have to have something to put back there that will function,” Benson said. “And we want it to function correctly.”

Species diversity is one of the key markers for success, said Gwen Santos, western region ecology director for RES.

Examples of upland native grasses slated for re-vegetation include tufted hairgrass, blue wild rye, bluebunch wheatgrass and bottlebrush squirreltail. Santos said they are also growing tens of thousands of oak trees, and willow cuttings designated for riparian areas.

Re-vegetation will help to stabilize stream banks, provide habitat and keep invasive species, such as cheatgrass and yellow star-thistle, from proliferating.

“If we were to do nothing, it would create and facilitate an unstable environment that would just not be a productive area,” Santos said. “It would not be very supportive of wildlife species and fish. It wouldn’t be a very pleasant area to visit.”

Laying the groundwork

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously approved decommissioning the four Klamath River dams in November 2022.

Dam removal was first negotiated in the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement in 2016, though Congress failed to pass legislation implementing the deal.

An amended agreement was signed later that year, establishing the nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corp., or KRRC, which took over the dams’ operating licenses from regional utility PacifiCorp. Built between 1911 and 1962, the dams had generated a combined 169 megawatts of electricity.

The KRRC secured $200 million from PacifiCorp ratepayers, plus $250 million from a California statewide water bond, to pay for dam removal. California, Oregon and PacifiCorp have pledged an additional $45 million in contingency funds, in case the project goes over budget.

Mark Bransom, KRRC executive director, said preliminary work is taking place now as crews prepare to draw down the reservoirs beginning in 2024.

This includes road and bridge improvements, demolition of recreational sites such as campgrounds and boat launches, and replacement of a city water line for Yreka, Calif., 20 miles south of Iron Gate Dam.

“Everything is happening right on our schedule,” Bransom said. “We are optimistic it will continue that way.”

Bransom said he is “very much looking forward” to ecological restoration, which he described as being just as important as dam removal.

“Everything is really starting to click nicely,” he said.

Seed collection

Joshua Chenoweth, senior riparian ecologist for the Yurok Tribe, said years of seed collection spearheaded by tribal members are poised to pay dividends.

Since the dams were constructed, federal statistics show the Klamath River’s once-abundant chinook salmon runs have declined by more than 90%. The fish are a sacred cultural resource for the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley tribes, essential for food and ceremonies.

“Without salmon, they lose a part of themselves,” said Chenoweth, who is not a tribal member but has worked for the Yurok Tribe since 2019.

Seed collection typically begins each year in May, when pods for lupine flowers begin to pop open. The work continues through summer and late into the fall, depending on the year.

“There’s not a whole lot of tricks,” Chenoweth said. “You just try to get to the seed before it ejects out of the pod.”

From a management perspective, Chenoweth said there are many challenges. He knows this from experience, having led the re-vegetation team after the Elwha Dam in western Washington was removed in 2012.

Not everything is easy to collect, and not everything is easy to propagate, Chenoweth said. Trying to collect everything is nearly impossible, he said, but the more diversity they can manage, the better set up for success they will be.

“Species richness is really important to ecosystems,” he said. “It provides a lot of resilience.”

Santos, with RES, said replanting will begin as soon as reservoir drawdown starts next year.

“It has been a real privilege to be a part of this project,” Santos said.

‘Unprecedented time’

Heritage Growers, a 156-acre farm in California’s Sacramento Valley, has also been involved propagating native seed for the Klamath River.

The farm was established in 2021, and is now entering its second growing season. It was established as the farming arm of River Partners, a nonprofit based in Chico, Calif., that focuses on large-scale environmental restoration.

Pat Reynolds, general manager at Heritage Growers, said the Klamath River job is just one example of what he calls “an unprecedented time for habitat restoration.”

“There are a lot of things that are going on with the environment right now,” Reynolds said. “We’re seeing significant losses of biodiversity on the planet. Of course, climate change is having significant impacts. It’s really important for us to be able to reverse some of these trends, and mitigate those losses.”

Benson, of BFI Native Seeds, said they face a delicate situation in the West.

He is not for de-populating the West, he said, and is not inherently opposed to dams — in fact, it is the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River that stores irrigation water for their farm, allowing agriculture to flourish in an area that receives just 9 inches of rain per year on average.

However, Benson said land managers must be good stewards of the land and its resources. That includes healthy, functioning natural areas.

“We have resources, and we should manage those resources well. That’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “Can we make better decisions and do better jobs where we’re working? I think we can.”




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