Butte County prosecutor wants California agency fined up to $51 billion for Oroville spillway failure

Butte County prosecutors are seeking up to $51 billion in fines and penalties against California’s water agency for damage caused to local river-based wildlife after the Oroville dam spillway failure last year, officials said.

In a civil complaint filed this week, District Attorney Mike Ramsey accused the Department of Water Resources of failing to build the Oroville Dam’s spillway on sturdy bedrock, which led to its rapid deterioration last February amid the heaviest winter storms the region had seen in years.

Officials at the DWR declined to comment Thursday.

The spillway failure forced the state to dump hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water into the Feather River below, and with it, concrete debris, silt, lime and other materials that killed fish and other wildlife, Ramsey said.

The complaint seeks between $34 billion and $51 billion in fines for the agency.

DWR is being prosecuted under a Fish and Game code that fines an entity $10 per pound of material illegally dumped into a waterway. According to DWR, about 1.7 million cubic yards of debris flowed off the spillway and adjacent earthen hillside during the emergency. A cubic yard weighs between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds, Ramsey said.

Ramsey called it ironic that the state is being prosecuted under one of its oldest environmental laws because the law was created after hydrologic mining in Northern California choked the area’s rivers — including those around Butte County — with silt and mud.

The filing also seeks to enjoin the state from ever allowing this to happen again. The spillway is currently being reconstructed with better, stronger materials and on a sturdier foundation, engineers have said.

—Los Angeles Times

Samaritan’s Purse leader, a Trump nominee for UN post, apologizes for Muslim remarks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Trump administration nominee who has long worked for Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse has apologized for calling Muslims violent.

Ken Isaacs, tapped to become director general of the United Nations International Organization for Migration, has led relief efforts all over the world for the Boone, N.C.-based Christian relief organization.

In a Feb. 3 investigative report, The Washington Post said it reviewed tweets, social media posts and radio appearances in which Isaacs made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change — “a driving force behind migration, according to the agency the State Department has nominated him to lead.”

The Post reported that in June, after a terrorist attack in London, Isaacs re-posted and commented on a CNN International story that quoted a Catholic bishop saying, “This isn’t in the name of God, this isn’t what the Muslim faith asks people to do.”

Isaacs responded: “CNN, Bishop if you read the Quran you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group based in Washington, D.C., charged in a Sunday Facebook post that “this type of nomination coming from the Trump administration is a symptom of its deep hostility toward immigrants, migrants and Muslims.”

After The Post sent some of Isaacs’ social media comments to the State Department and requested comment, his Twitter account was made private, according to the Post, and the department issued a statement from Isaacs apologizing for his posts.

“I deeply regret that my comments on social media have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record,” his statement read, according to the Post. “It was careless and it has caused concern among those who have expressed faith in my ability to effectively lead IOM. I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM.”

The State Department told the Post that it would continue to back the nomination and cited Isaacs’ experience of helping diverse populations worldwide.

—The Charlotte Observer

Colombia tightens border controls as Venezuelan exodus grows

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced a tightening of immigration controls as thousands of Venezuelans continue to pour over the border to escape a dire economic crisis and an increasingly authoritarian government.

Effective immediately, Colombia will cease to issue new migratory cards, which allow Venezuelans to cross the border freely without passing customs. Only existing card holders or those with valid passports will be able to enter Colombia, Santos said on Thursday in the frontier city of Cucuta, which has become a hub for migrants fleeing Venezuela.

“There will be more control and more security at borders,” Santos said, adding that 2,120 members of the Colombian military were being deployed to the area.

The two nations share a long, porous frontier that stretches over 1,300 miles from the Caribbean down through the Andes. For years, it has been common for residents to live in one country and work in another, but over recent months Colombia has struggled to cope with the influx of migrants as Venezuela’s economy collapses and President Nicolas Maduro cracks down on dissent.

—Bloomberg News


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