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The Scotsman
Sat 24 Jul 2004
Native Americans demonstrating in Edinburgh yesterday Fish rotting in the Klamath river. The tribesmen are calling for fish ladders or other measures to allow salmon to move upstream.
Picture: David Moir

Tribes enlist Arnie's help in fishing feud


NATIVE Americans embroiled in a dispute with the energy company ScottishPower have pledged to take their case to the governor of the State of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The tribesmen were in Edinburgh yesterday to demonstrate at ScottishPower’s annual meeting. They say dams owned by a subsidiary of the company have damaged their fishing grounds.

They publicly challenged the chief executive of ScottishPower, Ian Russell, to make a personal commitment to resolving the long-running feud.

Mr Russell, who held private talks with the tribes on Thursday, promised to take charge of the company’s negotiations.

But the chairman of the delegation representing the tribes, Leaf Miller, said he would bring further pressure to bear on the company by seeking Mr Schwarzenegger’s support.

Mr Schwarzenegger is one of only a small number of people with the power to intervene in the dispute and force a solution.

The row concerns six dams in the north of California owned by ScottishPower’s US subsidiary, PacifiCorp. Four tribes - the Klamath, Karuk, Yurok and Hoopa - say the dams have devastated the salmon stock in the Klamath river basin.

The salmon are an important part of their economy, religion and history, and the tribes are trying to persuade ScottishPower to modify or remove its dams to allow fish to migrate up-river.

A member of the Indians’ delegation - whose native American name is Mohiswaqs but who introduced himself at the shareholders’ meeting as Jeff Mitchell - made an impassioned plea for support from the mostly Scottish audience.

He said: "I want to thank you, the people of Scotland, for your hospitality and for allowing us to come into your homelands to speak to you in this way.

"My people have suffered enormous harm. We would like to see a full range of alternatives - consistent with our principles - to address the issues we have raised. I will come back here again and again until we find a solution."

Mr Russell replied that the tribes had his "absolute commitment" to finding an answer to their dispute. He said: "We completely respect the sovereign nations who are represented here today. They have behaved with great dignity."

ScottishPower is currently seeking a new licence to operate the dams from the US water regulator. The tribes are pressuring the regulator to insert a clause in the licence requiring ScottishPower to provide solutions such as fish ladders - which allow salmon to leap upstream.

Scottish & Southern Energy, the Perth-based rival to ScottishPower, has installed similar devices on some rivers in Scotland. Some of the Californian dams are too tall, however, to accommodate fish ladders, requiring different solutions.

As governor of the state of California, Mr Schwarzenegger can demand the regulator inserts guarantees to protect the tribes’ interests. Mr Schwarzenegger’s office was unavailable yesterday to comment on its intentions in the case.

Mr Miller said he would press for the governor’s support shortly. "We have had an initial contact with the governor’s office and I will take a campaign to them when I return to the US," he said.

"In fact, we believe we already have strong support from some of the state’s agencies, such as the Water Resource Control Board."

Mr Russell told The Scotsman he was unwilling to set a deadline to resolve the discussion. "Some of these licence applications can take up to ten years," he said.

Mr Mitchell said he hoped the company would report at its annual meeting in 2005 that the two sides had agreed a solution.

ScottishPower shareholders heard that the Indian tribes had spent more than three years in negotiations with the company’s American subsidiary. They have been pressuring it to add - of its own volition - the desired clauses into its licence application.

But when the company recently submitted its draft application to the US water regulator, there was no mention of the salmon issue. The document is understood to weigh 80lb and stand three-and-a-half feet high.

Mr Mitchell said: "My people have spent years in meetings with PacifiCorp, one week of every month. We have committed enormous resources and hard work. The company’s interest in the dams is a very small fraction of their energy production."

He said ScottishPower’s commitment to the environment on issues such as green energy was "impressive". Such concerns were in the interests of shareholders, he said, and he asked them to press the company to extend its consideration to California.

Molly White, from the Karuk tribe, who had travelled to the protest with her 14-month-old son, Nicknekich, said: "We hope the shareholders hear our message and we hope it has an effect, because the fish are dying and we cannot live without our fish."

The chief executive of PacifiCorp, Judi Johansen, said she was "100 per cent committed" to finding a solution to the tribes’ requests. She had joined Mr Russell in the talks with the delegation on Thursday.

Mr Schwarzenegger - also known as Conan the Republican and The Governator in American political circles - pledged recently to "fight like a warrior" for the people of California.





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