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Butte County Sues DWR Over River Damage From Oroville Crisis

Marc Albert / North State Public Radio

Marc Albert / North State Public Radio

Butte County has filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources for environmental damages to the Feather River on the one-year anniversary of the Oroville Dam crisis.

An estimated 1.7 million cubic yards of debris flowed down the Feather River as a result of the incident. 

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey says the debris flow ruined fish and wildlife habitat.

"It was a huge damage to the ecosystem that killed enumerable fish and aquatic life in the Feather River, going far, far downstream," he said.

Ramsey says DWR's current dredging projects aren't enough and the agency should be penalized.

"Of course the question is well, they were perhaps caught unaware, but the recent independent forensic report that was commissioned by DWR came to the conclusion that this was not just an accident," he said.

The independent forensic report says a combination of poor design, complacent management, and insufficient response to the spillway's failure contributed to the scenario.

The penalty under the Fish and Wildlife code is $10 per pound of harmful material put into state waters, and in this case, that could total between $34 and $51 billion, according to Ramsey.

DWR says it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Sally Schilling

Reporter/Podcast Producer

Sally Schilling is a Davis native and a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has reported on redwood poachers robbing national forests in Humboldt County and the dangers of melting tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes.  Read Full Bio 

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