Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Klamath Fishing Tales

By Phil Hayworth, Pioneer Press, November 28, 2007

When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 16 found that fish populations on the Klamath River could be restored to healthy numbers without removing the four dams owned by PacifiCorp, the news had the environmental and Indian communities scrambling for answers.

Specifically, the groups - who have long contended that the only way to save salmon species on the river is to return it to its pristine, pre-dam state -- wondered how they could spin the news to show that the final FERC environmental impact statement actually found against keeping the dams, not for them.

The best they could do was to say the FERC found that removing the dams was somehow "cheaper" than keeping them. It was a moot argument.

The Karuk Indian tribe - who along with other Klamath River Indians have long lobbied against keeping the dams - say the FERC document includes an economic analysis that shows that the removal of the lower four Klamath dams would save ratepayers $7 million dollars a year which will likely make it difficult for PacifiCorp to recover expenses from their customers. The FERC analysis showed that the dams would operate at a net loss of more than $20 million a year if relicensed.

Twenty million a year? Dam owner Berkshire Hathaway and its majority owner, Warren Buffet, have that kind of change in their sofas. They don't have to pass those costs onto anyone. And it's highly unlikely the Oregon and California PUC's will allow them to do so anytime soon.

Indeed, PacifiCorp could operate the dams at a net loss, but still come out on top without having to pass that loss onto their consumers, say energy analysts. PacifiCorp's cost-plus bookkeeping means that it's not really how much they lose that matters to their bottom line, but how much they invest that bloats their bottom line. PacifiCorp will get back in various tax breaks and other energy subsidies any "costs" they lose in investment into the dams -- plus what they lose in energy costs.

So it really doesn't matter much to PacifiCorp, and it's highly unlikely any costs "lost" will be passed onto the consumer any time soon. The ratepayer increase tactic is really moot. And now, based on the FERC analysis, PacifiCorp is in the catbird seat, as is Siskiyou and Klamath Counties, who stand to continue to reap millions in property tax revenue.

But destroying the dams is sure to hurt PacifiCorp's bottom line. Where there's no reinvestment "costs," there's no profit. And Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway investors sure ain't going to like that.

Meanwhile, a San Francisco Chronicle article published last week and written by Jim Webb, described as an avid recreational fisherman from San Luis Obispo County, shows that some within even the ultra-liberal SF media are pro dam.

He describes a fishing trip over this Thanksgiving weekend where he searched for hours before finding a spot, only to have caught his allowed catch in minutes. As he wrote: "The fish leapt in the air and threw the spinner off to the side. Several casts later and I had caught my limit. I did this for three days in a row. The hatchery up the river had worked as a practical and natural fish reserve that had produced a large number of fish that now populate the fishable stretch of the river. A few days of great fishing changed my view of the closures. Fish reserves now seemed like a pretty good idea."

Just one question: isn't the whole question behind the removal really the health of the river and doing what's best for the fish? No really. It's also balancing man's needs with fish needs, say proponents of the dams. But while FERC's finding is tough blow to anti-dam entities, it's not a death blow. As the Pioneer Press reported last week, Indians and environmentalists have vowed to fight re-licensing the dams.

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

             Copyright klamathbasincrisis.org, 2007, All Rights Reserved