Lawyer contends enviros overstated the risk of low water to threatened coho and suckerfish
By The Sacramento Bee
WorldCatch News Network – A class action lawsuit filed Tuesday in Superior Court in Yreka alleges environmental and fishing groups conspired to use false information in litigation that led to the federal shut-off of irrigation water to Klamath basin farmers last spring.
The lawsuit, filed by Walnut Creek lawyer Robert Hannon on behalf of about 1,400 farmers and landowners, contends the Sierra Club, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, and other groups overstated the risk of low water to federally threatened Klamath River coho salmon and endangered suckerfish.
"The facts that were presented to the court were wrong," said Hannon. "It’s a sham. They are doing this as a furtherance of their scheme to convert a lot of land to the public."
But Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in Seattle – which represented the Pacific Coast Federation and other groups in the litigation against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – said the allegations are groundless.
"They appear to be a recycling of claims that were made in litigation by the (Klamath) irrigators in federal court in Eugene (Oregon)," said True. "And the court, as it should have, rejected the claims there."
The environmental litigation was based, in part, on scientific findings showing the population of suckerfish would be jeopardized by a decline in the water level of Upper Klamath Lake, the source of the irrigation water, and that coho salmon face a similar risk from diverting water from the Klamath River for irrigation.
The class action suit, though, contends environmentalists misrepresented the risk and ignored scientific evidence to the contrary in an effort "to reduce the value of the (Klamath basin) homesteads by having the irrigation water turned off."
(c) 2001, The Sacramento Bee, Calif. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
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