[env-trinity] Karuk Tribe, fishermen, conservationists Sue State over Klamath Toxins
jallen at trinitycounty.org
Thu Aug 23 15:54:59 PDT 2007
Klamath Riverkeeper * Karuk Tribe * Pacific Coast Federation of
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 23, 2007
Regina Chichizola, Klamath Riverkeeper: 541-951-0126
Glen Spain, PCFFA: 541-689-2000
Craig Tucker, Karuk Tribe: 530-627-3446 x3027
Tribe, Fishermen, Conservationists Sue California over Toxic Discharges
to Klamath River
Groups want state to regulate PacifiCorp's Algal Toxins
Sonoma, CA- Today the Klamath Riverkeeper, the Karuk Tribe of
California, and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association
(PCFFA) filed a lawsuit against the California Regional Water Quality
Control Board, North Coast region, for failing to regulate toxic
discharges from PacifiCorp's Klamath dams and reservoirs.
The groups petitioned the board last February demanding that it
establish limits on the amount of the highly toxic algae Microcystis
aeruginosa that can be discharged into the river by Iron Gate and Copco
dams. The dams are located in the Northeast corner of California. The
dams are owned by Portland based PacifiCorp, which in turn is owned by
billionaire Warren Buffett.
The groups have long sought the removal of the dams which degrade water
quality and destroy salmon runs without providing flood control,
irrigation diversions or substantial amounts of electricity to
In March the board denied the petitioners request. Although the board
appeared to agree with the petitioners claims - that PacifiCorp's
reservoirs host massive levels of Microcystis aeruginosa that threaten
human health - the board argued that they lacked the authority to
regulate PacifiCorp. The suit filed today in California Superior Court
in Sonoma County argues that congress passed the Clean Water Act
explicitly to preserve and expand states' authority to regulate water
"When it comes to this issue, we respectfully disagree with the Water
Board's position. The state has to stiffen its resolve and act quickly
to stop PacifiCorp's poisoning of the Klamath River," said Regina
Chichizola of Klamath Riverkeeper.
Since 2005, Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs have seen some of the most
toxic blooms of the toxic algae Microcystis aeruginosa ever recorded in
the United States (see
Health experts warn that even modest exposure to the toxin produced by
the algae, called microcystin, can lead to skin rashes, vomiting, and
diarrhea. High doses of the toxin, such as those found in the Klamath
reservoirs each summer, could lead to massive liver failure and even
death in humans. Microcystin also can poison and kill fish and
According to Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Organizations (PCFFA) the regional water board not only has the
authority but the mandate to protect the public from toxins like these
in water bodies, "PacifiCorp is clearly in violation of California's
Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act and it's the responsibility of the
California State Water Boards to hold corporate polluters like
The Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs have not only become "toxic algae
factories" that generate microcystin, as set forth in the petition, but
also have caused deteriorating water quality. Petitioners say the toxic
releases have made many people not use the Klamath River.
For Karuk ceremonial leaders and participants, the toxic blooms also
constitute an infringement on their freedom to practice their religion.
During certain ceremonies, participants bath in the river for long
periods of time making them especially susceptible to exposure. "This is
one of the ways that companies like Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp are
complicit in the genocide of Native American Cultures," said Chook Chook
Hillman, a Karuk ceremonial participant.
PacifiCorp's dams provide optimal growth conditions for the toxic algae
by trapping nutrient rich water in shallow warm reservoirs. Last year
the microcystin toxin levels behind the Klamath dams exceeded World
Health Organization guidelines for a "moderate health risk" by nearly
4,000 fold. Neither the United States EPA nor the State of California
as yet have independent guidelines for this toxin.
This suit comes on the heels of a ruling last Friday by a Federal Judge
that allows tribal members, commercial fishermen, and business owners
along the river to sue PacifiCorp for damages associated with their
Currently PacifiCorp is engaged in talks with Tribes, conservationists,
fishermen, farmers, as well as state and federal agencies aimed at
removing the troublesome dams.
Over the past several years Tribes, conservation groups, and fishermen
have litigated, protested, petitioned, and traveled as far away as
Edinburgh, Scotland to attend shareholder meetings of PacifiCorp parent
companies in an effort to convince the company to remove the dams.
"Hopefully we can arrive at an agreement that removes the dams and this
case will be moot," said Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk Tribe,
"but until we are sure that PacifiCorp is willing to negotiate in good
faith, we will continue to throw everything we have at them. This is a
fight that the Karuk Tribe simply has to win."
Dam removal proponents note that Warren Buffett owns these dams, which
create the very conditions he hopes to end with his philanthropy.
# # #
S. Craig Tucker, Ph.D.
Klamath Campaign Coordinator
Karuk Tribe of California
office: 530-627-3446 x3027
ctucker at karuk.us
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