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Hoopa Tribe Wins Federal Lawsuit Paving Way for Klamath Dam Removal

Photo: California Trout

The Hoopa Valley Tribe emerged victorious from federal court of appeals against PacifiCorp on Friday, with a ruling that may pave the way for the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. It could be the largest river restoration in U.S. history.

The ruling against PacifiCorp requires the company to adhere to mandatory requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River, which they have avoided for over a decade. In order to operate the dams, the company needs a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They haven’t had a license since 2006 and have instead operated on temporary licenses which enabled them to avoid completing water certifications which force modernization of the dam. Not anymore, said the court.

“(The arrangement) serves to circumvent a congressionally granted authority over the licensing, conditioning, and developing of a hydropower project. …Thus, if allowed, the withdrawal-and-resubmission scheme could be used to indefinitely delay federal licensing,” the court document stated. “The record indicates that PacifiCorp’s water quality certification request has been complete and ready for review for more than a decade… .”

Thousands of salmon died on the Klamath River in 2002. PhotoL Northcoast Environment Center.

PacifiCorp was operating under a license from 1956, which was well before the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, fish passage provisions and water flow requirements. While the company was working on the temporary licenses, they made $27 million in profits per year.

Now, the company must invest tens of millions of dollars into dam modernization, or eliminate them entirely.

Photo: California Trout

The victory for the Hoopa Tribe was just the initial step in restoring their home on the Klamath River, which has seen decimated fish populations in recent decades. PacifiCorp is currently reviewing their options to fully understand the implications.

If it were up to the Hoopa Tribe, the next step will be the expedited removal of the dams, which would be a truly monumental victory.

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4 Comments

  1. Or they could sue the government claiming that property is being taken without payment. The dams were legal and licensed when build. Refusing to continue the licenses amounts to a taking without payment and violates constitutional requirements.

    1. No one has refused to license them. Pacificorp keeps withdrawing the license application themselves. Read the article. Regulations change all the time in various industries when more scientific facts become available. They are not exempt from retrofitting their dams so they are safe for people and the environment. They also can not use temporary license loop holes to circumvent the actual license process.

  2. Very good for Hoopla Tribe. Now make river sacred and nobody can touch it without your say-so.

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