Groundwater Well Mitigation

Reservoir Drawdown Impacts

Drawdown of the J.C. Boyle, Iron Gate, and Copco reservoirs may affect groundwater levels in the immediate vicinity of the reservoirs. However, based on the work the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) and its consultants have done to date many area wells are not hydrologically connected to the reservoirs and, as a result, will not be impacted by dam removal. However, other wells may be affected by reservoir drawdown.

Compensation to Homeowners

A critical component of the KRRC project is fair treatment of individuals whose properties are physically impacted by dam removal. Some local residents have asked KKRC to consider compensation for certain impacts, including impacts to wells, and KRRC is carefully considering that suggestion. One way to address impacts is through the creation of a “Local Impact Mitigation Fund” (Fund) in which affected parties can participate. This is an approach that has been used on other complex projects.

KRRC will comply with all regulatory requirements, including permit conditions related to impacts on the environment. We will also address demonstrated physical impacts on local properties outside of the permit conditions. Establishing the Fund is one way to address such impacts. KRRC will continue to work with homeowners to understand concerns and, if the Fund is used, develop a fair and transparent process for administering the Fund. For example, KRRC may develop a methodology to determine whether an impact to a well was caused by the dam removal, how to assess that impact and how to determine what mitigation (e.g., changes to a well, etc.) is appropriate. The Fund would be administered by a third party. Property owners will have an opportunity to share their input on how the Fund should operate and be administered.

As with other components of the project, the use and scope of the Fund must be approved by KRRC’s governing body and funders. We are still in the process of determining if the Fund is the best way to address these concerns and how it could complement other efforts to mitigate the project’s impacts on local properties. We anticipate providing an update on the Fund proposal no later than March 2020.

You may review KRRC’s Risk Management Plan, which was part of our July 29, 2019, filing, and is before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Local Impact Mitigation Fund is discussed on page 24 of this plan.

Groundwater Well Management Plan

KRRC’s Groundwater Well Management Plan identifies groundwater wells that may be adversely impacted following dam decommissioning and reservoir drawdown. The plan calls for monitoring to understand the effects, if any, of dam removal on groundwater levels and quality. If it is determined that the project could adversely affect groundwater wells, KRRC would work with affected landowners to mitigate the issue.

There are several steps in this plan:

  1. Database search and agency coordination to identify wells that may be impacted
  2. Outreach to landowners and residents to arrange site visits
  3. Installation of groundwater monitoring equipment in existing wells or construction of new monitoring wells using a “sentinel well” approach to obtain a representative sample of groundwater levels and conditions (“Phase One”)
  4. Continued analysis of dam removal impacts to identify and refine the list of “at risk” wells
  5. Perform groundwater monitoring before and following dam removal (“Phase Two”)
  6. Post-dam removal outreach/notification of findings
  7. Mitigation (as necessary) of impacts to wells

Groundwater Monitoring

KRRC is initiating Phase One of a groundwater monitoring effort to better understand the local groundwater flow conditions. This will help KRRC (as well as regulatory agencies) evaluate any wells are likely to be impacted by our project. During Phase One, KRRC will employ a “sentinel well” approach, meaning that we will monitor wells distributed around the three project reservoirs to obtain a representative sample of groundwater levels and conditions. Please note that groundwater well mitigation will not be limited to those who have volunteered to have their wells monitored. However, monitoring will help KRRC better determine which wells could be, or have been, impacted by dam removal.

In Phase Two, KRRC will conduct additional outreach and may initiate monitoring of additional wells to gather baseline information before reservoir drawdown and following dam removal to measure how groundwater is impacted by the process of reservoir drawdown.

Do you have a well near Copco, Iron Gate, or JC Boyle Reservoirs?

We are seeking volunteers to participate in Phase One of the monitoring program, which began in summer of 2018. Please Contact Us if you would like KRRC to monitor your well, or fill out the questionnaire. We also welcome submissions of the questionnaire even if you are not volunteering for monitoring at this time, as the data is useful for our study.

It appears more and more likely that Copco Lake will disappear and the river channel will reestablish the current lakebed. KRRC is committed to mitigating as many of the impacts to us property owners as is reasonably feasible including bank stabilization where needed, any drop in water levels, repairing roads, and upgrading bridges. As much as my wife and I love our lakeside setting, we believe everyone should begin identifying potential impacts to their property and request KRRC staff to evaluate their concerns and monitor well levels etc. so that we are prepared, and hopefully any impacts (beyond the lake being gone) are fully addressed as part of the overall lake removal process. We have invited KRRC staff to monitor our two wells for any water level drop that may occur with lake drawdown. We urge you to do the same in order to protect your interests. It might be hard to argue about an impact if you have not protected yourself by requiring baseline data.

Kenneth Burger

Landowner at Copco Reservoir

Dave Meurer, KRRC’s Community Liaison, left, visits Kenneth Burger, landowner at Copco Reservoir, right.
If the proposed project is implemented, it is essential that adequate mitigation occur to make landowners in Siskiyou County whole for the impacts associated with groundwater. An upcoming groundwater evaluation from KRRC is necessary to ensure that your interests are protected if the project is implemented. . . In order to determine if a landowner’s well has been impacted, KRRC will need to obtain information on the current groundwater elevations in the areas surrounding the proposed project. Collecting pre-project, or baseline data, is a crucial step in properly evaluating a project’s impact on the environment and your property. Without baseline data, it may be impossible for KRRC to adequately compensate landowner’s for their loss of, or reduced access to, groundwater. Therefore, these landowners should consider the importance of KRRC accessing property to study current groundwater levels and conditions. SWCA Environmental Consultants

Consultant to Siskiyou County

Groundwater Well Management Plan Q&A

What is the plan to study and mitigate potential impacts of reservoir drawdown on private wells?

The Groundwater Well Management Plan identifies groundwater wells that may be adversely impacted following dam decommissioning and reservoir drawdown. The plan calls for monitoring to understand the effects, if any, on groundwater levels, well production rates, and quality. If it is determined that the project adversely impacts the production of groundwater wells in these ways, KRRC would mitigate these impacts.

There are several steps in this plan:

  1. Database search and agency coordination to identify wells that may be impacted
  2. Outreach to landowners and residents to arrange site visits and collect groundwater samples for water quality analysis
  3. Installation of groundwater monitoring equipment in existing wells or construction of new monitoring wells using a “sentinel well” approach to obtain a representative sample of groundwater levels and conditions (“Phase One”)
  4. Continued analysis of dam removal impacts to identify and refine the list of “at risk” wells.
  5. Perform groundwater monitoring before and following dam removal (“Phase Two”)
  6. Post-dam-removal outreach/notification of findings
  7. Mitigation (as necessary) of impacts to wells
Will reservoir drawdown affect wells downstream of Iron Gate?

Because Klamath River water levels are not anticipated to appreciably change with dam decommissioning, domestic groundwater wells adjacent to the current Klamath River or its tributaries are not anticipated to be affected by removal of the dams and associated reservoirs. Water releases to the river are controlled upstream at Link River Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). BOR will continue to control river flow, which translates to river water level or “stage,” after dam removal.

However, KRRC is responding to community concerns by monitoring “sentinel wells” below Iron Gate.

What are the specific measures that KRRC would undertake in the short-term and in the long-term to mitigate for impacts to private wells?

KRRC is undertaking studies to better understand the groundwater in the project area and possible solutions to mitigate any potential impacts. If it is determined that the project adversely affects the production of a groundwater well, KRRC would provide mitigation for those impacts.

Specific measures that KRRC would undertake have not yet been determined at this early stage of regulatory review of the project but providing compensation via a Local Impact Mitigation Fund is under consideration.

If I do not participate in the groundwater monitoring program, will I be ineligible for mitigation?

Groundwater well mitigation will not be limited to those who have volunteered to have their wells monitored. Any wells – even those not monitored directly – that are shown to be impacted by KRRC’s project may be eligible for mitigation. However, monitoring will help KRRC better determine which wells could be, or have been, impacted by dam removal.

What groundwater quality characteristics will KRRC test for and monitor?

KRRC will measure baseline information on general water quality parameters including pH, conductivity, and major anions and cations (sodium, calcium, chloride, potassium, etc.), bicarbonate, alkalinity, fluoride, bromide, sulfate, nitrite, nitrate, and 31 naturally occurring metals and elements. KRRC will also measure these same parameters after drawdown.

Will sediments released during drawdown contaminate private wells?

During reservoir sediment release, there will be high concentrations of suspended sediment within the Klamath River, but suspended sediment will not impact downstream private wells if these wells are properly designed to prevent the direct intake of surface water from the Klamath River. Groundwater wells are separated from the water in the river by layers of soil and rock that prevent the migration of suspended sediment. Similarly, when algae released from the reservoirs flows down the river during summer months, it does not contaminate groundwater wells because layers of soil and rock act as a filter to prevent migration of algae.

Further, accumulated sediment within the reservoir has been tested, and no exceedances of human health or drinking water standards have been detected that differ from background sediments around the reservoirs.