Tribal leaders from the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Resighini Rancheria, concerned citizens and environmental groups gathered this week in Sacramento, CA, to urge the California government to force the Portland-based energy giant PacifiCorp to get rid of the toxic blue green algae that has gathered as a result of its Klamath River dams.
Even mild exposure to the toxin produced by the algae, called microcystin, can lead to skin rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea. High-level exposure can lead to liver failure and death in humans. Microcystin is also well known to poison and kill fish and wildlife.
The company is stalling the process that would regulate the gradual release of the toxin over a six year period.
Tribes Demand California Stop Allowing PacifiCorp to Stall Klamath Toxin Regulations
State agency proposes allowing Klamath dam owner to pollute without regulation for 7th year
Public rally at 12 noon July 17, 1001 I street, Sacramento, CA
Sacramento, California- Tribal leaders from the Hoopa and Resighini Tribes, concerned citizens and environmental groups traveled 300 miles to urge California water quality regulators to force energy giant PacifiCorp to get rid of toxic pollution created by its Klamath River dams.
“These dams produce toxic algae that is released into the Klamath at rates up to 3000 times what is considered safe for human contact, along with creating conditions that are lethal to fish.” explained Hoopa Tribal Council member Hayley Hutt. “Yet, California has allowed PacifiCorp to stall the process that would regulate the dams’ toxic releases for over six years. It is time for California to protect the water, and people who depend on it.”
PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, operates four antiquated dams on the Klamath River. Although PacifiCorp says it supports removal of these dams to avoid millions in operating costs imposed by current environmental laws, it has shown little movement in that direction. Participants in today’s meeting say PacifiCorp has used the highly controversial Klamath Dams settlement process, and related proposed legislation to operate these dams in violation of the Clean Water Act and fisheries protection laws.
“There is no question that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) is hung up in congress due to its high cost and controversial environmental, water sharing, and Tribal water rights provisions,” stated Sunshine Watkins, a representative of the Resighini Rancheria, which is located at the mouth of the Klamath River. “PacifiCorp continues to operate the dams illegally, which allows them to make $27 million a year, while we deal with toxic conditions and sick fish.” Watkins went on to say the Resighini has been excluded from the Klamath settlement.
PacifiCorp applied for Clean Water Act certification as part of the FERC dam relicensing process in 2006 around the same time that Klamath Basin irrigators, some Klamath River Tribes and environmental groups, and government agencies created the KBRA. Clean Water Act certification was to be the last step in the FERC process, which could lead to a new 50-year license for the dams. PacifiCorp has stalled the process by alternatively applying for and withdrawing applications for certification. In the meantime it continues to operate under annual licenses from FERC on the same environmentally destructive terms that were established when it first received a license more than a half century ago.
Supporters of moving forward with dam removal say PacifiCorp’s stalling is unlawful and could lead FERC to decide California has given up its rights under the Clean Water Act. Supporters also point out that PacifiCorp could string out the delay for up to eight more years if the controversial KBRA does not get enacted. They are also concerned that with a record 380,000 salmon expected to come up the Klamath this year, poor water quality and the current flows provided by the Bureau of Reclamation could cause another Klamath River fish kill.
“I have supported the Klamath settlement process and have gone to shareholder meetings to ask Warren Buffett to remove his dams. However, I don’t see how California refusing to enforce water quality helps the settlement process. Dam removal, with or without the KBRA, will need certification.” commented Dania Rose Colgrove from Got Water. “If the KBRA fails the FERC process will be all we have to get dams removed. The river is suffering. The solution is clean water. It is the water board’s job to provide it.
Hayley Hutt, Hoopa Valley Tribe 530-784-7759
Regina Chichizola, Hoopa Valley Tribe 541 951-0126
Sunshine Watkins, Resighini Rancheria 707 482-0111