The Klamath Riverkeeper is filing a citizens enforcement lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp for polluting one of the nation’s most important and controversial salmon rivers – the Klamath.Klamath Riverkeeper’s suit asserts that the Iron Gate Dam hatchery, which is owned and operated by PacifiCorp and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), is unlawfully discharging pollutants into the Klamath River, in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA).The complaint is seeking an assessment of civil penalties for violations of the CWA, and injunctive relief to enjoin PacifiCorp and the CDFG from further violating its discharge permit and the CWA.
“The Klamath Riverkeeper sent PacifiCorp a 60-day Notice of Intent to File Suit on January 17, 2007, yet PacifiCorp has failed to address these violations,” said Regina Chichizola, the Klamath Riverkeeper.“This left us with no other alternative but to move forward with the suit in order to protect the River, its salmon runs, and the fishing economy of the Klamath River.”
The Iron Gate Dam is just one of four dams owned by PacifiCorp along the Klamath River.Since the dams were built, Klamath salmon numbers have dropped from more than a million to less than 8% of that.The 2006 run was one of the worst in history, according to the Klamath Riverkeeper.Moreover, the poor water quality conditions created in the Iron Gate and Copco reservoirs, have contributed to record-setting levels of a highly toxic algae that has been found behind the dams during the last two years. This toxic algae called Microcystis aeruginosa, which is a liver toxin and tumor promoter, has now been detected hundreds of miles down river, and is just one of the ways the dams pollute the Klamath River. The dams are also creating toxic conditions for the salmon trapped below them because of the release of this polluted water, which has made this part of the river ground zero for fish diseases and juvenile fish kills in the Klamath.
“The constant fish kills and toxic algae resulting from PacifiCorp’s management on the Klamath River have devastated the Klamath River economy and put downriver tribes and fishermen at serious risk,” stated Chichizola
Recently, PacifiCorp’s corporate profile has been raised due to its acquisition by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.Buffett is known for his philanthropic endeavors and concern for low-income and health challenged communities around the world; however the Riverkeeper asserts that the current dam issue is inconsistent with Buffett’s reputation. “Mr. Buffett owns PacifiCorp, yet his ideals are not being reflected in his company’s practices in operating a dam that is polluting the Klamath River,” noted Chichizola.“We call on Mr. Buffett to scrutinize PacifiCorp’s operation of these dams and take action to prevent further devastation to the River and the salmon.Hopefully, our citizens enforcement suit will be the first step in resolving these issues and restoring the Klamath River and the communities that rely on the River to what they once were.”