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Parties settle lawsuit over 90-year-old dam

December 29, 2013

Capital Press

Environmentalists who sued a Siskiyou County, Calif., water district over the operation of a roughly 90-year-old dam have reached a legal settlement with the district. The deal will result in only a slight decrease of irrigation water for area farms in average water years.

MONTAGUE, Calif. — Environmentalists who sued a water district here over the operation of a roughly 90-year-old dam here have settled the case with the district.

Klamath Riverkeeper and its ally, the Karuk Tribes, gained a slight decrease in diversions for irrigation from Shastina Reservoir to preserve the Shasta River, a key tributary to the beleaguered Klamath River.

Historically, the Montague Water Conservation District has diverted about 22,000 acre-feet per year. The agreement allows the district to divert 20,500 acre-feet in average water years, though diversions could fluctuate depending on wet or dry conditions, the tribes explained in a news release.

District officials said Dec. 23 the terms of the agreement are consistent with their conservation goals. The district maintains its operations provide substantial benefits to the fisheries within the watershed.

The Orleans, Calif.-based Klamath Riverkeeper filed an Endangered Species Act lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento last year. The suit called on the irrigation district to remedy the Dwinnell Dam’s impacts to coho salmon runs, which the group asserts are on the verge of extinction.

Klamath Riverkeeper argued that the dam, which creates the Shastina Reservoir and provides water to agricultural and residential customers, has caused a loss of 20 percent of habitat for coho in the Shasta River since it was built in the 1920s.

The Dwinnell Dam is not one of the four slated for removal as part of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

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