GRANTS PASS, Ore.
- Representatives of Indian tribes,
commercial fishermen and conservationists are
returning to Scotland to try to build pressure
on PacifiCorp's parent company to give salmon
a way over dams on the Klamath River before
selling the utility.
A delegation of about 20 people
representing the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk and
Klamath tribes, the Pacific Coast Federation
of Fishermen's Associations and Friends of the
River will reach out to stockholders,
investment groups and executives of Scottish
Power at the company's annual meeting July 22
in Glasgow, Scotland. They made a similar trek
to the annual meeting last year in Edinburgh.
"We made a commitment to their board of
directors and president, CEO, that if we
weren't satisfied with how things were going
that we would be back," said Leaf Hillman,
vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe in an
interview from Arcata, Calif. "So we are going
Scottish Power has agreed to sell
PacifiCorp to MidAmerican Energy, a utility
controlled by Warren Buffett through his
investment company Berkshire Hathaway, for
$5.1 billion, plus the assumption of $4.3
billion in debt.
PacifiCorp's application for a new
operating license for the four dams, which
produce about 150 kilowatts of power, does not
include any provision for salmon passage,
which has been blocked since construction
began in 1908.
PacifiCorp has estimated it would cost $100
million to build fish ladders, but Hillman
hopes to see the dams removed to restore
access to 350 miles of spawning habitat and
improve water quality.
Hillman said last year's talks with
Scottish Power CEO Ian Russell pushed
PacifiCorp into settlement negotiations rather
than leaving relicensing to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, and the coalition hoped
for more progress this year.
Hillman said he was encouraged by talks
Monday in Arcata with PacifiCorp CEO Judy
Johansen and Gregory Abel, president of
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., where the
tribes were given a commitment to another
meeting with Russell.
"We are hoping to be able to open a
dialogue with MidAmerican to ensure they
understand the tribes' position," Hillman
said. "And a year or 18 months from now when
the acquisition is complete, it will be no
shocker to them that they are going to have to
deal with the tribes on the Klamath River."
The Klamath River starts in Oregon, cuts
through the Cascade Range, and flows through
northwestern California to the Pacific Ocean.
It once boasted the third-largest salmon runs
on the West coast, but now sees a fraction of
those returns. Efforts to protect the
declining runs have forced steep cutbacks in
Pacific salmon fishing. Tribes locked in
poverty struggle to get enough fish to meet
subsistence and ceremonial needs. The Karuk
contend many of their health problems are
related to the loss of salmon from their diet.
Jon Coney, spokesman for PacifiCorp, said
Russell's message to the tribes all along has
been "that this is a PacifiCorp relicensing."
The settlement talks under the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing
process "is the one single forum that has been
established for all parties to work toward a
solution to the Klamath Project."
Glen Spain, northwest director of the
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations, said the sale could take up to
two years to get federal approval, and the
license to operate the dams expires at the end
of March 2006.
"So key decisions will still be made with
Scottish Power making those decisions," Spain
said. "It's on their watch."
Mike Belchik, a biologist for the Yurok
Tribe, said the coalition was encouraged after
getting a commitment from Russell last year to
find a solution, but felt PacifiCorp appeared
to be trying to keep the status quo.
PacifiCorp still maintains that the dams
improve water quality by serving as settling
ponds that remove agricultural pollution,
The delegation hopes to show Scottish Power
stockholders the film, "Salmon on the Backs of
Buffalo," explaining the suffering of river
tribes because of the loss of salmon runs,
"Its a crisis right now," Belchik said.