City of Palo Alto pulls out of power users suit against Trinity restoration
Posted on Wed, Jun. 04, 200
Palo Alto will sacrifice electricity to supply Trinity river
By Dan Stober
In a vote that pitted Palo Alto’s reputation for environmentalism against
its desire for cheap electricity, the City Council voted 5-4 this week in
favor of the fish.
The council agreed, in effect, to give up some of the electricity the city
buys from a power station on Northern California’s Trinity river in order
to supply much-needed water to the salmon and steelhead that live there.
The fish are 280 miles north of Palo Alto, near Redding, in the mountainous
For decades, the city has purchased electricity generated by turbines spun
by water diverted from the Trinity. The amount of water left in the river
downstream of the diversion is a fraction of what flowed before the Trinity
Dam was completed in the early 1960s.
The reduced flow has changed the contours of the river and choked its banks
with thick growths of willows and cottonwoods. The Trinity has become
inhospitable to the spawning salmon that swim upriver all the way from the
pacific Ocean, said Mike Orcutt, the director of fisheries for the Hoopa
Valley tribe, which has lived by the river for thousands of years.
The Clinton Administration in its waning days attempted to revive the
river. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, after riding a dugout canoe down
the river, announced that would increase the water flow down the river and
That’s when Palo Alto got involved. The city belongs to the Northern
California Power Agency, a consortium of cities and utility districts with
a long-term contract to buy electricity from the dam.
NCPA sued to block the Babbitt plan, and has kept the issue tied up in
court since then. In the meantime, the diverted water continues to provide
electricity to the city and irrigation water to farmers.
But late Tuesday, after a lengthy debate, the city council voted to pull
out of the lawsuit. The other members of the NCPA, however, will continue
the litigation and pay Palo Alto’s share of the legal bill, said George
Fraser, the NCPA general manager.
The largest city is the consortium is Santa Clara, which voted 7-0 last
year to continue the lawsuit.
Contact Dan Stober at email@example.com or (650) 688-7536.