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Groups sue over Klamath dams

The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. – A group of Klamath River tribal leaders, commercial salmon fishermen, recreational business owners and the Klamath Riverkeeper Group sued in federal court in Northern California, saying two PacifiCorp dams on the river cause massive toxic algae blooms.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday contends the reservoirs behind Iron Gate and Copco dams in Northern California are a toxic nuisance, threatening salmon fishing and posing a human health threat.

The suit wants Portland-based PacifiCorpto stop operating the dams in a way that causes the blooms.

PacifiCorp spokeswoman Jan Mitchell said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

PacifiCorp is seeking a new operating license for a number of its dams. But numerous Indian tribes, commercial fisherman and conservation groups want the dams removed rather than relicensed. They say the dams hurt water quality, wildlife and cause other problems.

The company contends removal would eliminate a source of renewable, low-cost power.

PacifiCorp serves 1.6 million customers in six Western states.

A collapse of wild salmon returns to the Klamath River triggered drastic cutbacks in salmon fishing off the coasts of Oregon and California last summer and prompted the governors of the two states to call a summit to consider removing the dams.

The summit was delayed so the various parties could try to reach an agreement.

PacifiCorp began settlement talks with 26 other parties affected by the dams as part of the relicensing process.

Regina Chichizola with the Klamath Riverkeeper said none of the individuals named in the lawsuit are involved in the settlement talks.

The individuals involved are part of a larger effort to draw attention to their concern and are headed for Omaha, Neb., this week where Berkshire Hathaway is holding a shareholders' meeting.

PacifiCorp, is owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., which is controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway is his investment group.

They hope to capture Buffett's attention.

"We believe Warren Buffett really does care about health issues and poverty issues, what PacifiCorp is doing is hurting the health and viability of (others)," Chichizola said. "By talking to Warren Buffett, we are hoping to appeal to those concerns."

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