The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (the “corporation”) recently submitted a plan for the removal of four dams on the lower Klamath River to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC). In it, the corporation indicates its intent to sidestep compliance with the California Endangered Species Act and California’s Lake and Streambed Alteration Program by asking FERC to opine that those state law requirements are preempted by federal law. Among other things, these laws protect the critically endangered Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris).

At the same time, as we previously reported, there is a bill (Assembly Bill 2640) moving through the California legislature to waive the protections afforded to the Lost River sucker and shortnose sucker by the fully protected species laws. Because the federal and state agencies entrusted to administer laws to protect the sucker species are vocal proponents for dam removal, those traditional advocates for endangered species may be unlikely to provide an honest appraisal of the harmful effects of dam removal. As a consequence, all eyes will be on FERC to determine whether it will demand an honest appraisal and instruct the corporation to comply with state law requirements.