Judge gives Klamath toxin case green light

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has denied an energy company's request to dismiss a lawsuit claiming its dams cause pollution lethal to fish in a river along the California-Oregon border that once brimmed with salmon.

The suit was filed against Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp by a group of Klamath River tribal leaders, salmon fishermen, business owners and environmentalists in U.S. District Court in Northern California. The plaintiffs accuse the company of operating two California dams in a way that causes toxic algae blooms.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Friday that the suit can go forward, though he also wrote that he did not have the authority to require PacifiCorp to immediately alter its dam operations while the case is heard.

In the company's motion to dismiss, lawyers for PacifiCorp argued that the algae in question is common in the Klamath River basin and other watersheds throughout California.

The Klamath was once the West Coast's third-biggest producer of salmon, but last year federal fisheries managers practically shut down commercial salmon fishing after the third straight year of poor returns of wild chinook. Opponents have long pushed for the dams' removal as a remedy to the salmon decline.

— The Associated Press

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