The removal of four dams along the Klamath River near the Oregon-California state line, cheered by tribal, state and federal officials last month, is facing additional litigation.
Siskiyou County Water Users Association board member Anthony Intiso has filed a lawsuit against Wade Crowfoot, the secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, claiming Crowfoot is illegally using taxpayer money to fund the historic project, KDRV-TV in Medford reported.
“The secretary of natural resources has authority over the implementation of anything that affects wild and scenic rivers. He’s also ... in charge of the bond money,” Intiso told the station.
Intiso’s lawsuit cites California’s Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, claiming the project funding is illegal expenditure of tax money.
“People in the state government decided they wanted to fund the removal of these four green energy hydroelectric facilities with money from the bond act,” he said. “If you look at the bond act it says nothing about removing facilities, it’s all about supposedly improving.”
The California Natural Resources Agency told the station it doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the removal of the JC Boyle, Copco 1, Copco 2 and Iron Gate dams in November, a $500 million undertaking.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland joined leaders of the Karuk and Yurok tribes as well as U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and Kate Brown of Oregon along the river to celebrate the significance of the decision last month. Haaland also announced $5.8 million in federal funds to help restore aquatic ecosystems and habitats amid the West’s ongoing drought.
“Clean water, healthy forests and fertile land made the Klamath River Basin and its surrounding watershed a home to tribal communities, productive agriculture, and a place where abundant populations of migratory birds, suckers, salmon and other fish could thrive,” Haaland said. “We must take urgent and necessary action to protect this special place.”
While the Siskiyou County Water Users Association is against the removal of the dams, its president said the priority should be improving the quality of the river.
“We represent a very large group of people and we’ve been fighting this issue of removing the dams because we don’t believe it’s going to resolve the real issue that’s being raised, which is the production of fish,” Richard Marshall told the station. “I think the middle ground here for everybody is instead of concentrating on the dams, to concentrate on improving the breeding areas for the salmon all the way from the ocean to the dams. This is where the cold water tributaries come in that the fish lay their eggs in. I don’t think that’s really been explored.”
Intiso will ask a judge to define the terms of the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act and decide whether or not money can be used to fund the dam removal project.