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Butte Co. DA sues DWR for environmental damages

"There's no need to prove that they willfully or negligently intended to pass through deleterious material. Basically, you dump, you're liable," said Ramsey.

Posted: Feb. 7, 2018 5:13 PM
Updated: Feb. 7, 2018 5:13 PM

"I saw the water almost up to Highway 70 - it is flood-plane, but it's still amazing to se that water up there. And I saw all that damage; It's almost indescribable," said Tom Lando, Interim Director for the Feather River Recreation and Park District.

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It was just a year ago - the main spillway off of the Oroville Dam began to crumble. And in the coming weeks, 1.7 million cubic yards of lime-filled concrete, soil, and debris would flood the river below.

"Imagine a cubic yard, stack those one after the other and you'll go 965 miles to the east of Denver" said Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.

Wednesday morning, the Butte County District Attorney's Office filled a civil claim of environmental damages against the DWR for violating a fish and game code.

"The deleterious nature of the overwhelming material was spot-lighted and proved by the evacuation of the feather river fish hatchery, it was too dangerous for the Salmon and Steelhead there," said Ramsey.

The suit is not about intent, it's about holding the DWR accountable for what happened.

"There's no need to prove that they willfully or negligently intended to pass through deleterious material. Basically, you dump, you're liable," said Ramsey.

What they want as restitution? 51 Billion dollars.

"It's really a matter of simple arithmetic. Fish and Game code says there should be a penalty of 10 dollars per pound of deleterious material put in," said Ramsey.

And a cubic yard of soil and sand weighs about 2500 pounds, so it adds up quickly.

While it's too soon to tell how and where the restitution will be used, areas like Oroville's Riverbend Park already have a costly wish-list.

So areas along the river bed that were once sand, grass? They're still littered with bedrock. All and all, we're looking at a 14 million dollar project.

"We took away tons of trash that came down from the flood, the debris, structures destroyed ... The district could use any resources we can get," said Lando.

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