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Lawsuit Filed to Halt Removal of Northern CA Klamath River Hydroelectric Dams

‘When politically expedient, the governors of California and Oregon will turn a blind eye to dramatic and substantial environmental damages’

By Katy Grimes California Globe

Last week California Governor Gavin Newsom announced final approval of a plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River in Northern California, along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Congressman Jared Huffman and leaders of the Yurok and Karuk tribes. Newsom refers to the dam removal project as “transformative” and says “it will revitalize nearly 400 miles of the Klamath River and tributaries.”

The location of the four dams straddle the Oregon-California border.

This has been a long time coming and and has been fought over by many groups as well as by members of Congress. In 2020, the Globe reported, “The plan calls for the demolition of the dams and management of the watershed lands by the non-profit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC). Rep. Doug La Malfa (R-CA) calls the KRRC a ‘shell corporation’ for the Karuk and Yurok Indian tribes who have no experience or capacity to handle the immense legal liabilities of such a project.”

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to help the federally-operated Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project in California, the Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon and California and the Columbia River Basin system in the Pacific Northwest. “We will resolve the issues blocking the completion of the Central Valley project,” Trump said. “I hope you enjoy the water that you’re going to have.”

“The President’s announcement is an immense relief for the farmers and families of the San Joaquin Valley and communities across California,” said Rep. Tom McClintock. “Due to the actions of environmental extremists and overzealous bureaucrats, California has been suffering from a years-long water crisis that has wreaked havoc in Central Valley farming communities that feed tens of millions of Americans. Productive land has gone fallow and farmworkers have lost their jobs. Communities across California have also been devastated as senseless government regulations have mandated that billions of gallons of water be flushed out to the ocean and wasted.”

But once Trump left office, Klamath Dam removal began again in earnest. And Thursday, Newsom made his announcement about the dam removal.

The Siskiyou County Water Users Association (SCWUA) announced the filing of a Summons and Complaint in the Superior Court of California for Taxpayer Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief by Anthony Intiso (below).  

“This action was filed against Defendant Wade Crowfoot Secretary of Natural Resources Agency and as an Individual person in connection with the funding operations for the proposed removal of the Klamath River Dam complex in Northern California,” the SCWUA statement said.  

Wade Crowfoot is Gov. Newsom’s appointed California Natural Resources Agency Secretary. He also worked in Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and was involved in Brown’s climate compact with the Governors of Oregon and Washington and the British Columbia Premier, when they signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, “to align climate change policies and promote clean energy.”

The Pacific Coast Collaborative was an illegal compact which linked with the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange (WCX), formed to promote “the type of new thinking necessary to solve the West Coast’s infrastructure crisis.” And the WCX was linked to the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative.

“The case was filed Pro Se by Mr. Anthony Intiso, a member of the Board of Directors of SCWUA, to enjoin Defendant Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of Natural Resources from expending taxpayer funds in the amount of $250,000,000 (TWO HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS) for the removal of the Klamath River project hydroelectric facilities.  Mr. Intiso alleges that the continued disbursement of funds to Klamath River Restoration Corporation should be halted as it was specifically outlawed by the Bond language contained in the Bond Act of 2014 labeled the ‘Water Quality Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.’” 

The Siskiyou County Water Users Association continues:

“The Klamath River is part of the Federal Wild and Scenic River system identified and approved by Congress and is further so identified in the State of California parallel act.  The Bond Act of 2014 specifically states in Chapter 4, Section 79711 e that the funds from the Act cannot be and will not be used for any project that could have an adverse effect on a Wild and Scenic River.  The recent FERC approved EIR references numerous times that the removal of the hydroelectric facilities will create and have adverse effect on the Klamath River including but not limited to sediment and proposed in channel modifications to “create” a free flowing and volitional fish passageway.  Mr. Intiso argues that this is in direct opposition to the language of the Act which was clear that funds not be used in projects that would impact a Wild and Scenic River.”

“Mr. Intiso asks the Court to find that Defendant Wade Crowfoot is violating the provisions of the Act and that such expenditures are illegal and therefore Mr. Crowfoot is acting outside his official authorization and instead acting as an individual.  He requests that if the Court finds this to be so then Mr. Crowfoot should personally repay the illegally expended funds.”

Mr. Intiso also requested the Court to issue an immediate injunction restraining and preventing further expenditure of funds until the Court has rendered its opinion.

Notably, in 2019, following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(which oversees hydropower dams) ruling, said that the KRRC had insufficient finances and experience to be able to solely undertake such a risky project. Rep. La Malfa issued the following statement on that FERC ruling:

“The Commission’s Order today reinforces what I have been saying since KRRC’s inception: KRRC is incapable of handling any hydropower project. Rather, KRRC is nothing more than a shell corporation created for California, Oregon, and other supporters of dam removal to avoid liability and leave local communities to clean up the mess they would create. I am happy to see that FERC agreed with the many issues I, and other stakeholders, brought to their attention. It would have set a dangerous precedent to give a shell cooperation sole liability for the immense damage to the environment and local economy that this project would create. Smaller dam removal projects have faced significantly higher costs than originally estimated and this project has made the same failed assumptions. This Order clears the way to stop this terrible project without wasting more of California taxpayer funds or Oregon ratepayer dollars. PacifiCorp should instead pursue relicensing of all four Klamath dams, ensuring the Basin continues to receive ample carbon free, clean power for years to come.”

KTVZ recently reported Reps. Cliff Bentz (OR-02) Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) released a statement sharply critical of the most recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision paving the way for removal of four Klamath River dams.

Here’s their statement:

“We are outraged by FERC’s decision to allow surrender of the PacifiCorp Klamath hydroelectric license to a shell corporation, thus allowing PacifiCorp to avoid responsibility for the consequences of removing its Klamath River dams. Such consequences include reducing power generation, eliminating recreational assets, decimating the local community’s economy, destroying firefighting resources, and damaging the Klamath River’s ecosystems.

“The politicization of this process is apparent in Oregon and California’s stampede to issue the Clean Water Act Section 401 certifications required to remove the dams. The release of massive amounts of accumulated silt from behind the dams will be devastating to water quality, will cover spawning beds, and will choke fish. Obviously, when politically expedient, the governors of California and Oregon will turn a blind eye to dramatic and substantial environmental damages.

“We are exploring legislative options to properly address this politicized and environmentally destructive decision. Additionally, in the upcoming 118th Congress, we Republicans will use our majority to aggressively conduct oversight of this flawed decision making process,” Reps. Bentz and LaMalfa said.

Read the entire article and statement here.

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