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Judge rejects salmon lawsuit

August 18, 2005

Leaders of the Klamath Tribes are evaluating their options after a federal judge last month rejected their claim that PacifiCorp is responsible for $1 billion in damages as a result of lost salmon fishing along the Klamath river.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled in July that PacifiCorp couldn't be held responsible for a violation of the Tribes' treaty of 1864 because the utility wasn't a contracting party of the treaty. Neither the company nor its predecessor existed in 1864.

Aiken cited a recent ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a Washington State case. The appeals court said the Skokomish Indian Tribe couldn't seek damages for salmon runs impacted by the city of Tacoma and the Tacoma Public Utilities.

On the Klamath River, PacifiCorp has a 151-megawatt power complex made up of four dams - Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, J.C. Boyle and Iron Gate - and other small projects.

The company also owns the Keno Dam and has a contract to operate the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Link River Dam.

The dams were installed by PacifiCorp and its predecessor, the California Oregon Power Company, between 1908 and 1962, according to PacifiCorp's Web site.

Salmon migration stops at the Iron Gate Dam, the lowest on the Klamath River, near Interstate 5 in Siskiyou County.

"We thought the judgment dismissing the case was appropriate," said Jon Coney, PacifiCorp spokesman.

Tribal lawyer Dan Israel of Denver said he would amend the suit and ask Aiken to take another look, but he expected eventually the case would be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court.




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