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FOR Logo Friends of the River
 The voice of California's rivers

Bring the Salmon Home

Momentum Builds to Remove Klamath Dams

Copco 2 Dam on Klamath RiverLike a river to the sea an undammed river, that is the campaign to remove four dams from the Klamath River keeps rolling along. Friends of the River will be rolling along, too, on our way to Omaha, Nebraska.

The boat will greet Warren Buffet at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting on May 5. We want him to know that one of his subsidiaries Pacificorp faces a simple, economic decision: Remove its dams from the Klamath River because not only is it the right thing to do, but also it can save money. Tearing down the dams will be much cheaper than building fish ladders, which the federal government is now requiring. We reckon Warren will understand the benefits of tearing down the dams: save money, restore the river, revive the salmon population, and support the fishing industry, towns, and tribes who all depend on the Klamath salmon.

The background
The requirement for building fish ladders didn’t just appear. It took many years of hard work by Friends of the River and our allies among conservation groups, tribes, and agencies throughout the hydropower relicensing process conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In January, federal agencies submitted their final terms and conditions to FERC requiring ladders and screens at all of the Klamath dams to allow salmon and steelhead access to the upper reaches of the Klamath River.

The complex of dams comprising the Klamath hydroelectric project have blocked salmon and steelhead from migrating to their historic habitat in the upper Klamath River for more than 80 years. Klamath salmon have been on the decline for decades, and they have recently suffered a fish kill and three years of historically low spawning returns. The situation last year was so dire that federal agencies drastically curtailed the commercial salmon fishing season for fear that fishing could bring Klamath salmon to the brink of extinction.

The terms and conditions remaining as strong as they are is a great win for environmental groups, tribes, and fishermen who have long encouraged the federal agencies. After submitting preliminary terms and conditions in March 2006, PacifiCorp, the dams’ owner, challenged the agencies under two provisions of the Energy Bill allowing first a trial-type hearing and then the opportunity for PacifiCorp to submit alternative conditions for consideration by a high-level political appointee. PacifiCorp lost in both venues.

Now that the terms and conditions are final, FERC is required to include them in a new license. The cost of adding ladders and screens to the dams is estimated to be upwards of $400 million, whereas the cost to remove the dams is estimated to be $280 million.

Momemtum builds
All of this continues to add momentum as Friends of the River and our allies in the Klamath basin tribes gear up for another spring and summer of campaigning, including the events in Omaha. As one member of the tribes put it, “Our fishing boats will do just as good a job putting food on the table in Omaha as they do in the Klamath since there are very few fish to be caught.”

The tribes have sent letters to Warren Buffett requesting a meeting but never received a reply. They hope the sight of fisherment and tribal members in urban Omaha will bring their plight to the attention of Warren and open the door to discussions, similar to those they had with former PacifiCorp owner Scottish Power. “For all of Scottish Power’s faults,” says Craig Tucker of the Karuk Tribe, “at least they were willing to meet with the tribes to discuss their concerns. We have not received the same courtesy from Berkshire Hathaway.”



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Our friends at Water for Fish are gathering signatures to demand changes to protect fish and the fishing industry. Click here to sign.

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Tony Bogar
Communications Director

Karuk Tribe
plus more to come ...

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