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A coalition of activists and environmentalists traveled to Omaha, Neb., to disrupt a shareholders’ meeting of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the ultimate parent-company of PacifiCorp, which owns four controversial dams on the Klamath River.

The dams are blamed for plummeting salmon returns and declining water quality conditions.

Klamath River Basin tribal leaders and activists, as well as sport and commercial fishermen said they made the trip to confront Berkshire Hathaway chief and billionaire Warren Buffett.

The group announced in a news release Saturday that they wanted to send a message to Buffett that PacifiCorp’s four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River “are killing salmon and their way of life.”

Representatives from groups gained entry to the shareholder meeting, reportedly attended by tens of thousands, through proxy.

The groups reported they disrupted a stockholder cocktail reception Friday night, unfurled banners from balconies across the stadium throughout the morning of the shareholder meeting and staged a demonstration.

Leaf Hillman, vice chair of the Karuk Tribe, was temporarily detained by police, preventing him from speaking while he waited in line for his turn at the microphone, according to the news release.

“They can arrest me if they want, it doesn’t matter,” Hillman said after he was released, according to the release. “There are 4,000 more Karuk ready to take my place.”

American Indian tribes and salmon fisherman were rebuffed a second time Saturday in their bid to win support from Buffett for a proposal to remove four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River.

Buffett again told the group that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. won’t decide the fate of the dams owned by its PacifiCorp utility.

He said Berkshire Hathaway will defer to regulators in California and Oregon, where the Klamath runs, and to federal officials. Buffett also said he promised regulators when Berkshire Hathaway bought PacifiCorp in 2006 that he wouldn’t interfere with the utility’s operating decisions.

The groups say dam removal is the best option, not just for the people who depend on the Klamath River; but also the cheapest option for PacifiCorp and cite a California Energy Commission economic analysis concludes that removal of the dams would save the energy company more than $100 million.

In order to meet requirements to keep the dams operational, it is estimated that PacifiCorp would have to spend as much as $400 million to build fish ladders that would allow salmon to spawn upstream.

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

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