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Klamath Indians asking to take down PacifiCorp dams

By Clea Benson - Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau April 27, 2007

Kelly Catlett of 'Friends of the River' speaks along with Klamath Basin tribal leaders and commercial fisherman on the south steps of the State Capitol Friday morning. Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

Indians from Northern California tribes stopped Friday in Sacramento on their way to Omaha, Neb., to ask billionaire Warren Buffett to remove hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River that they say are jeopardizing their health, economy and traditions.

PacifiCorp, the utility that owns the dams, is a subsidiary of an Omaha-based company that Buffett owns. Members of the Yurok and Karuk tribes, long economically and culturally dependent on the river's declining salmon, said that removing the company's four dams would revitalize the fish population.

PacifiCorp is in the middle of renewing its licenses for the dams. The company has been reluctant to remove them, though federal government regulators have said they will require hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental mitigation projects before the licenses can be renewed.

"Mr. Warren Buffet has the opportunity to make right a lot of the wrongs that were done to native people on the Klamath River," said Frankie Joe Myers, a member of the Yurok tribe.

Bill Fehrman, president of PacifiCorp Energy, said Friday that the company has been trying to reach an agreement with the tribes and about two dozen other affected groups.

"As long as a solution involves an outcome that respects our customers' rights and our property rights, we're OK with that," he said. "If that includes some dam removal, that would have to be part of a more global solution."

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