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PacifiCorp seeks dismissal of $1 billion lawsuit

2/11/2005, 5:28 p.m. PT
By JEFF BARNARD

The Associated Press

 

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) PacifiCorp has filed a motion to dismiss the Klamath Tribes' lawsuit seeking $1 billion in damages for salmon runs lost to hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River on grounds that the tribes waited too long to file their claims.

The motion filed in U.S. District Court in Medford argues that when the tribe was terminated in 1961, it became subject to state statutes of limitations, and did not lose its federal treaty right to fish and hunt on ancestral lands.

The tribe was restored to federal recognition in 1986.

The longest of those state limitations allows just 10 years to make a claim of damages from the time the damages began, the motion argued. Construction began in 1911 on Copco Dam, the first of the projects, and Keno Dam, the last, was completed in 1967.

By those measures, the latest the tribes could have filed for damages would have been 1977, said PacifiCorp spokesman Jon Coney.

"I would like to see somebody stand up and admit responsibility somewhere along the line with things," said Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes. "It always seems to be the case with things like that nobody claims that they were responsible. The fact is there are damages."

PacifiCorp is meanwhile seeking a new federal license to continue operating the dams, but has made no provision to restore fish passage over the dams. The Klamath Tribes and other tribes and interest groups are in settlement talks with the utility to try to reach some agreement for future conditions before a license is considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The $1 billion lawsuit was brought by the Klamath Tribes, the Klamath Claims Committee, and tribal members.

 

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