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Tribes: Dam removal on the table


Published July 28, 2004

By DYLAN DARLING - H&N Staff Writer

The chief executive officer of PacifiCorp's parent company, Scottish Power, vowed he will have the company do more to get salmon up the Klamath River, reported members of a multi-tribes delegation that was in Scotland last week.

"He said dam removal is back on the table," said Jeff Mitchell, who made the trip, representing both the Klamath Tribes and the Klamath Intertribal Fish and Water Commission.

Scottish Power CEO Ian Russell, along with PacifiCorp President and CEO Judi Johansen, met with some of the delegation the day before the company's annual general stockholders' meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, Friday. But a PacifiCorp spokesman in Portland said while the tribes are free to meet with whom they want, if they want changes, they need to stay involved with the stateside talks.

"The real substantive talks of the process are the ones we have been holding out here all along," said Jon Coney, company spokesman.

Representatives from the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok tribes, along with officials from the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and the Sacramento-based conservation group Friends of the River, were in Scotland to go to the stockholder meeting because they weren't satisfied with how PacifiCorp was handling the issue of salmon passage in its application for a new 50-year hydroelectric dam license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

During their meeting, Russell said he would pay attention to the Klamath salmon issue and that Johansen would meet with the tribes regularly, Mitchell said.

Also while on the other side of the Atlantic, members of the group of about 20 split up, some meeting with investors in London and two others meeting with conservation groups and European Union officials in Brussels, Belgium, earlier in the week.

The European Union is made up of 25 European countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Spain. It has a parliament with representatives from member countries.

Mitchell, who along with Kelly Catlett, an attorney for Friends of the River, went to Brussels for three days, said they were able to meet with the equivalents of chiefs of staff for some members of the EU parliament and with one parliament member in person.

He said the EU officials mostly just heard them out.

In Scotland, the delegation made national television news broadcasts, were on the airwaves of the BBC and became regulars in the Scottish newspapers.

"We were pretty much in the news every day," said Edward Guyer, a member of the Hoopa Tribal Council.

They also got the attention of the Scottish Parliament, one of whose members drew up a motion to support the tribes in their effort to restore salmon even before the tribes got there.

In part, the motion by Scottish Legislator Robin Harper said parliament "regards Scottish Power's failure to include salmon restoration strategies in its future plans as a failure and calls on Scottish Power to lead the way in taking active measures to reverse the decline in salmon numbers in what was once America's third greatest salmon river."

Friday, the representatives from the different tribes gathered together for a demonstration outside the stockholder meeting. They sang, drummed and had a salmon bake during the four-to five-hour demonstration, according to an e-mail account by Kathy Hill, a member of the Klamath Tribes who was part of the delegation.

Inside the meeting, Mitchell and Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe, spoke before the stockholders. Hill wrote that their presentation must have been powerful.

"As one shareholder told us when she left: 'I was shattered when I learned what has happened to you,' " Hill wrote. "Other shareholders expressed similar emotions, and we heard there were a few in tears."

Hillman said the delegation went to Europe because after 2-1/2 years of meeting with PacifiCorp officials for a week per month, the company didn't include any plans for improved fish passage in its FERC application as the four tribes wanted.

"That sent us a message that we need to do more than continue to talk to PacifiCorp," he said.

Although the trip to Europe was expensive, it cost less than the meetings the tribes have been involved with over the last 2-1/2 years, Guyer said. He said it cost about $9,000 to send him and another member of his tribe on the trip, which was paid by an anonymous corporation. Mitchell said the costs of sending members of the Klamath Tribes was paid by tribes and "environmental friends."

Hillman and Mitchell said the tribes will be back to meet with Scottish Power officials again, and they plan to go to next year's stockholders' meeting.

They might even be back sooner, depending on how the continuing talks with PacifiCorp go stateside.

"If we run into a stalemate, we'll be back," Mitchell said.

He said the tribes might also come back to Europe to meet with other organizations and governing bodies, such as human rights committees and the United Nations.

"I expect we will probably continue this and we will take it to a broader group of people on the other side of the world - it is not just a Klamath Issue," Mitchell said.

PacifiCorp response disputes Klamath Tribes' lawsuit claims

Portland-based PacifiCorp says that $1 billion in damage claims from the Klamath Tribes for the loss of salmon in the Klamath Basin are unjustified, according to papers filed in federal court in mid-July.

The Tribes say the dams of the power company and its predecessors have blocked passage of Klamath River salmon, which they say were once a staple for their people. The claims were filed in May. The salmon migrated from the Pacific Ocean to the Basin to spawn.

In response, the PacifiCorp said:

- The hydroelectric facilities were designed and constructed in conformance with industry custom and state-of-the-art performance standards existing at the time of their construction. Most of the dams were put in during the first half of the 1900s.

- The facilities were designed, constructed and are operated in compliance with state and federal law.

- The Tribes damage claims shouldn't be allowed because they go against the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits excessive fines.

- By Dylan Darling





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