Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

KBC  Notes & Facts

Karuk Spokesperson "Craig Tucker received his B.S. in biochemistry from Clemson University in 1993. He went on to get a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Vanderbilt University in 1999. After graduate school he gave up laboratory science for a career as an environmental and social justice activist. In 2000 Craig joined Green Corps, the field school for environmental organizing. While in Green Corp, Craig learned fundamental grassroots organizing skills. After Green Corps he worked as Outreach Director at Friends of the River, developing grassroots campaigns on a variety of California water issues. Each campaign was based on the connection between sustainable environmental policy and social justice. Currently Craig is the Campaign Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe's 'Bring the Salmon Home' campaign. The goal: removal of four dams on the Klamath River which would represent the largest dam removal project in history."


Tucker: "Whatever we come up with will have to pass the public approval test..."

FERC  Comments by John Mudre: "These 'FERC negotiations' you mention are not meetings held or attended by the Commission or Commission staff. All of our meetings are open to the public and, in most cases transcripts or meeting summaries are made available to the public...If settlement is reached, the settlement would likely be filed with the Commission. At that time, the Commission would issue public notice of the settlement, invite public comments on it, and subsequently act on those issues under its jurisdiction."


History of Klamath Project partnership with Copco Power  company:Klamath River Basin Compact is 'The Law of the River', H&N by James Ottoman 3/28/05.

Klamath River Compact spelled out how water in river was to be used, H&N 3/21/05 by Lynn Long, Klamath Water Users power committee chairman.


PCFFA, Yuroks and Hoopas along with the other environmental groups filed against irrigators in the power rate case, Yurok employee Felice Pace presently has lawsuits against Scott Valley and Klamath irrigators on water quality, PCFFA and Yuroks and other groups sued irrigators saying they did not have a right to water we stored for irrigation in 2001 which, on our deeds, says "water appurtenant to that land" and signed by the President of the United States, ....NOW that tribes and PCFFA and enviros succeeded in winning the power rate case against irrigators to downsize ag, now they say, ok, you get an affordable power rate if the dams come out. Was that a handy bargaining tool? Do they truly want us to have dependable water after they sued us so we would not get water?


2002 fish die-off
In 2002, the warm shallow water from the Klamath Project was released into the Klamath River. When the Trinity River fish reached the Klamath they got sick and died. The National Academy of Science, and fisheries biologist David Vogel, found no causal connection between flows and the fish die-off; more warm water would not save these fish. There were hundreds of news articles by environmentalists and Indian Tribes all blaming the Klamath Project irrigators. Never were the Klamath dams mentioned as the cause of the die-off. Photos of dead fish were seen across the country blaming "low flows".
 Major Problems with the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) 'Fish Kill' Report.  In 1988 there were large salmon runs, 215,322 salmon, and low flows 2,130 cfs, and no fishkills. In 2002 there were 132,600 salmon at 2,129 cfs, and fish died. Therefore, the dams did not make these fish extinct because there were record runs, and with a higher 1988 run with the same flow, fish survived just fine.


Secret talks, yes. Do we farmers support the dam removal? 28 groups are at the table, tribes, enviros, gov't agencies and Klamath Water Users Association. But the meetings are secret. How many endangered fish will be planted in our lakes and ditches? Does this involve retiring more ag land? Upper Basin has already been made "unwilling sellers' for 100,000 acres of ag land into wetlands, evaporating vast amounts of water and decimating the cattle industry. When we are not told what rights are being negotiated, we have no way to be supportive. We just know that the dams provide low-cost power for 70,000 customers per year, thanks to the free regulated water provided by the Klamath Project.  We know there would be millions of tons of sediment behind those dams which could wipe out salmon habitat if they are removed.


8 peer-reviewed reasons for the decline in coho, according to the USFWS studies.

  VIDEO of David Vogel describing the 8 peer-reviewed reasons for the decline in salmon.  Klamath Project and dams are not listed.


For more info and articles, see our Dam Page, and other articles scattered throughout our home page.

May 10, 2007

 Tribes take Klamath dams woes to Buffett HQ


followed by
On the home front
Secretive settlement talks and a surprise lawsuit

Above: Beneath Interstate 480, tribal members perform the Brush Dance to pray for the healing of the Klamath River. Photo by Sean Welch/The Reader.

On the cover: Codi Donahue, a Karuk tribal member and spiritual leader, protests in front of PacifiCorp's headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe.

On the home front -- Secretive settlement talks and a surprise lawsuit


Dressed in traditional regalia, with woven baskets on their heads and earthy symb ols of renewal in hand, about 20 Native Americans chanted, danced and prayed in a circle. They surrounded Karuk tribe member Kathy McCovey, a medicine woman, sitting next to a fire burning angelica root, her eyes closed, meditating. Their shell-encased skirts made the sound of water.

The Klamath River Basin coalition -- a group of Native Americans, commercial fisherman and conservationists -- had arrived in Omaha Thursday, May 3, for a salmon cookoff at Heartland of America Park. The next day at the same spot under the Interstate 480 bridge, the natives demonstrated the aforementioned "brush ceremony," an ancient, healing ritual.

Right: Brush Dancer Bryan Colegrove. Photo by Sean Welch/The Reader.

Omaha tribe elder Richard Barea, 59, attended the ceremony after hearing about it through word of mouth, or "the moccasin telegraph." A Karuk Tribe member approached him with an offering, a dried salmon stick, similar to jerky. "This is what we're trying to save," he told Barea.

The coalition joined the nearly 30,000 in town for Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting on May 5. Representatives of the three largest Klamath Indian tribes from the northern California/southern Oregon border -- Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok -- aimed to educate Berkshire Hathaway shareholders about the destructive impact that the Berkshire/MidAmerican Energy-owned utility PacifiCorp's hydro-powered dams have had on the ecosystem of the Klamath River Basin. The dams have slowed salmon migration to an alarming rate; commercial salmon fishing was banned along 700 miles of California-Oregon coast last year.

Salmon is the lifeline for these people. Two handmade redwood canoes symbolically followed the tribe on the journey from Klamath; in the past nine days they had traveled and demonstrated in San Francisco, Sacramento and Salt Lake City (PacifiCorp's headquarters). Bob McConnell, a Yurok tribal member, fisherman and boat builder explained to a small group the history of the boat's significance. "A boat is considered a person," he said, pointing to its "body parts" -- nose, heart, lungs, kidneys.

"The real thing we're here for is to educate the powers that be in Berkshire Hathaway about PacifiCorp," he said. "They are strangling our cultures." The 57-year-old was 13 in 1962 when the last dam was built. Back then, 10,000 salmon might have swam by in a single day, he said. His people used to be able to catch enough fish in one day to feed their families for a year; now they're lucky if they catch three.

As the "brush" ceremony concluded, shareholder passes to the convention were being accounted for in preparation for the big day ahead (some were acquired through shareholder friends, some for $15 on eBay) -- asking Warren Buffett, in front of thousands of people, if he's going to do anything about his company that's ruining their culture. After all, his sons, Howard and Peter, are known as Native American advocates. Peter composed music for Dances With Wolves and 500 Nations, an eight-hour CBS documentary about Indian heritage. In fact, Karuk member Leaf Hillman was a finalist two years ago for an American Indian leadership award from the Buffett brothers for his role in this very campaign. Hillman was in Omaha leading the Klamath allies as part of the dam-removal campaign, and is a plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against PacifiCorp. So where were the Buffett brothers this week? Repeated attempts to contact them failed, and a Berkshire spokeswoman said no one was available for interviews. "Personally, I find that [lack of response] offensive," said Karuk coordinator Craig Tucker. "They should be here."

Left: En route to Omaha, Yurok Tribal members Frankie Myers and Bob McConnell stand in front of the PacifiCorp business offices outside of Salt Lake City. Photo by Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe.


Words of wisdom

People absolutely adore Warren Buffett. Maybe it's because though he's the second-richest man in the world, he'll dedicate five hours to offering advice and answering about 60 questions from shareholders at his annual "Woodstock of Capitalism."

Events ran from Friday through Saturday at Omaha's Qwest Convention Center. There was a pavillion set up to display and market products manufactured by Berkshire Hathaway's many companies. Buffett himself pitched, for a bit: The candid and outspoken 76-year-old Berkshire Hathaway president played the ukulele and sang with the Quebe Sisters Band at the Justin Boots booth, and did the can-can with Fruit of the Loom mascots dressed in tights, all while searching for a successor to handle his more than $40 billion.

It was the face of big business -- really big; shareholders from New York to Germany to China to Kuwait to Kansas City combined for a record 27,000 in attendance.

Buffet and his partner Charlie Munger fielded questions and talked shop while shareholders took advantage of discounts in the adjacent convention market. A 17-year-old told the duo that this was his 10th convention. The boy asked his idols what he should do to become an investor, while others asked about intrinsic value, derivatives and other intricate business strategy.

This event was huge, too, for the group of 40 Native Americans, commercial fisherman and conservationists representing the Klamath. It was raining and cold outside the Qwest Center Omaha this Saturday morning as they held up signs: "PacifiCorp = Poverty," "Save Our Native Culture," "Un-dam the Klamath" and "PacifiCorp = Salmon Kill." One sign even catered to terms appropriate of the day: "Dam Removal Good Business."

It'd been a long week for Karuk tribe member Kenneth Brink and the coalition. As he peacefully distributed brochures, an elderly woman flipped him the bird as others smirked or walked by without a glance.

"Most shareholders don't know who PacifiCorp is," Brink said outside the Qwest at about noon after the signs had been packed up. For every 500 passers-by, probably 20 were receptive to the protesters. Some told them to "get a life ... get a job." The advocates were preparing for the culmination of their journey to Nebraska. They came here to ask Buffett some questions. "Warren's going to be our hero," Brink said.

Right and below: Standing in the rain on a brisk Saturday morning, tribal members protested in front of the Qwest Center to raise awareness of the destructiveness of PacifiCorp's dams on the Klamath River fishery. Photos by Sean Welch/The Reader.

'Bad business'

Craig Tucker's eyes carry heavy baggage; the Karuk spokesman has been doing interviews nonstop. Even CNN called. He's been trying to get the word out about the health and environmental disaster PacifiCorp's dams have created.

Not only have the dams threatened and in some cases caused extinction to indigenous species, they've caused toxic liver-damaging algae blooms at levels nearly 4,000-times higher than World Health Organization guidelines.

Brink said his people -- 3,600 Karuks live in the middle Klamath -- caught 200 fish for the entire year in 2006. "Our children can't even swim in the river anymore," he added. Federal agencies have noticed: For the past four years PacifiCorp has been trying to secure a 50-year license renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate the dams; the commission mandated PacifiCorp to install fish ladders, estimated to cost between $300-$350 million. Several lawsuits have been filed, including one last week by Yurok and Karuk tribal leaders regarding the algae's toxic hazards.

The four dams the Klamath coalition target produce about 150 megawatts of power, accounting for about 2 percent of the company's electricity, or enough to power 70,000 homes. Tucker said the major liabilities associated with keeping the dams operative more than outweigh their practical application.

"Eventually someone is going to get sick from the algae," Tucker said. PacifiCorp's had chances to resolve the issue, but continues to "drag its feet" and is making "bad business" moves, he said. The Klamath coalition thought Buffett would be interested to hear about it.

PacifiCorp and the parties who support dam removal have been negotiating the issue for quite some time. The Klamath allies traveled to Scotland in 2004 and '05 for similar demonstrations to PacifiCorp's former owner, Scottish Power. Berkshire acquired the utility about a year ago.

"I think the Scottish people were embarrassed of this impact on Native Americans," Tucker said, "and they sold the problem to Warren Buffett."

PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme said the company would "continue to work through the settlement process. It's our preference to find a settlement outcome." If one cannot be found, the utility would continue to pursue the federal licensing process.

Kvamme said "nobody knows what removal of the dams would cost," but the California Energy Commission and other regulatory agencies have concluded that removing the dams would actually save the utility more than $100 million. Michael Bowen, project manager for the California Coastal Conservancy, said PacifiCorp has offered dam-removal cost estimates as large as $1 billion, with no evidence to support them. Kvamme said the 20-million cubic yards of sediment that lie behind the dams may need to be treated. Bowen's organization conducted a study of the sediment and found it to be non-toxic. "Our assertion is that [dam removal] would cost $100 million," Bowen said, an option much cheaper than installing fish ladders.

Kvamme said the CCC's study was only a "preliminary look."

Tucker's response to Kvamme: "Where's your study?"

Big screen, smoke screen

The day of the convention, the canoes were parked outside the Qwest at 6 a.m.

Many of the tribe members were on the eighth day of a nine-day fast, operating on little to no sleep. Kelly Catlett, a Friends of the River policy advocate from Sacramento, reported that the situation became even more stressful when people on the street started saying nasty things to the protesters.

"They were really hurt by that, given that they came with good hearts and good spirit, and simply wanted to educate and tell people what's happening to them," said Catlett.

Inside the Qwest, the crowd mixed of suits and laymen buzzed with excitement. A group of five Klamath Indian women dressed in full regalia waited in line in the hallway to address the beloved billionaire, long heralded as a man of integrity. Could he be swayed? It was the hope. Finally, after almost seven hours, Ronnie Pellegrini, accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter, explained how her husband, Paul, is a fourth-generation fisherman from Eureka and how the four PacifiCorp hydro dams had resulted in 95 percent salmon loss. She told Buffett this was ruining livelihoods on the Pacific coast. "You are a great businessman who's built an incredible empire," she said. "The coastal communities are awaiting your response. What can I tell them is your position on removing the four Klamath dams?"

FERC has 27 different groups involved in the negotiations, Buffett said. "We are a public utility responding to public policy. We will do exactly what they say. We are responsive to the people who regulate us. That is entirely a question for FERC."

As shareholders' shopped for $5 underwear, Dairy Queen Dilly Bars and bargain peanut brittle (this is business, after all), big screens were set up in the middle of it all so the question-and-answer session next door could be heard. Shareholders seemed uneducated but curious about the Klamath dams.

"I don't know enough about it, but it's a big deal up there," said Karen Asche, who moved from Lincoln, Neb. to Medford, Ore., four years ago. Shareholder Lori Gensch, from Milwaukee, said she'd been discussing the issue with some Omahans. "Buffett seems to be very conscious about nature issues; he's not going to do something destructive," she said. "Who better to buy a company like that than him?"

About 30 minutes later, another member of the Klamath coalition had her turn to ask Buffett a question. Wendy George, a council member with the Hoopa tribe, asked if Buffett would meet with the tribes so they could further educate him on the situation.

Again Buffett said FERC would make the final determination. "The world wants electricity ... all of the arguments will be presented. It takes a lot of time. I'm in a peculiar situation on this," Buffett responded. He went on to explain that when he bought PacifiCorp, he signed an affidavit -- which he held up as proof -- agreeing that he would not execute PacifiCorp decisions.

Right: Ron Reed, Cultural Biologist for the Karuk Tribe, is interviewed by Bloomberg about the impact of the dams at Heartland of America Park, as Ronnie Pellegrini looks on. The tribes had a traditional salmon bake at the park on Thursday. Photo by Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe.

Omahan Carol McBryant, a National Park Service employee who attended both the salmon feeding and brush ceremony, attended the Berkshire convention because she was intrigued by the issue. "From the sounds of it, Buffett's diverted it all to the regulatory board. At the same time, he owns the company -- he's got to have an opinion," said McBryant, an American Indian liaison and the chief of interpretation for Omaha's Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. She noted that musician Peter Buffett's Spirit -- the Seventh Fire -- a musical about a Native American wrestling with his identity in contemporary America that was performed on the Omaha Riverfront in 2004 -- was for sale in the convention's bookstore. She said "it's very good."

Although the Klamath River Basin allies were sure they made an impression, they were disappointed.

"We felt that Buffett missed the point and that his responses to us and our demonstrations are that he doesn't understand the issue," Tucker said. "After being polished in his responses all afternoon, he fumbled with us." Buffett's response that there were 27 other entities involved was almost true: There are 28. But, the main thing, Tucker said, is there are only two opinions: "PacifiCorp's and everybody else's."

Tucker called Buffett's referral to FERC a "smoke screen."

"In America, dam removal doesn't come through federal orders, it comes through a settlement agreement," he said, "so leaving it up to FERC is passing the buck off. "Saying that he has no influence is crazy." .

In the MidAmerican Energy convention booth, PacifiCorp representatives said the protests and questions had "put a twist" on the meeting this year, and that shareholders wanted to learn more about it.

Berkshire's ownership of PetroChina, which reportedly supports the Sudanese government and its genocide in Darfur, was given much attention in the media. When a shareholder criticized Planned Parenthood, Buffett defended what he called "a terrific organization" and ended his response with "I hope you'll respect my opinion as I respect yours." In fact, the Klamath River dam removal was the only issue the oracle appeared not to have an opinion on.

"It's ridiculous," Hillman said. "What he doesn't know is killing us."

On forbes.com just hours after the convention wrapped up, Forbes' National Editor Robert Lenzner quipped, " we all know the immense influence Buffett has; he personally saved Salomon Bros. from liquidation. It would have been more heroic to agree to meet with the people affected and to put his weight behind a fair and proper solution."

After it was all said and done, was it worth it? On Saturday Buffett produced official affidavits to prove that it wasn't his battle. His awareness was raised -- just not enough for Tucker and his group, who still have hope that Buffett will come around.

"Warren and Munger stood up all day long and preached the virtue of researching the issues of businesses you invest in. It's very clear he's not up to speed on this issue. We need him to call Bill Fehrman [PacifiCorp president and former Nebraska Public Power District employee] on the phone and tell him, 'PacifiCorp is being irresponsible,'" Tucker said. "This is going to cost these shareholders money, and I can tell by being there at the convention, losing money is something they don't like."

The trip wasn't a bust; at least now they know to approach PacifiCorp's patriarch in terms he can understand: business, as usual.

Tessa Jeffers is assistant managing editor of The Reader, Omaha's alternative newsweekly (www.thereader.com). This story is appearing simultaneously in The Reader and the North Coast Journal.

dingbat dingbat dingbat


On the home front
Secretive settlement talks and a surprise lawsuit


For the past two years, up to 28 stakeholders have been meeting behind closed doors to negotiate a settlement that will provide a framework for a host of Klamath River projects aimed at fixing water quality and quantity problems throughout the entire river basin. The meetings have been secretive -- the better to allow the oft-at-loggerheads parties to be open with each other -- and the issues complicated.

These negotiations were embarked on as a parallel course to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's traditional approach to relicensing PacifiCorp's Klamath dams. The dams' 50-year license expired in 2006, but has been extended while FERC completes its final environmental impact statement. Parties to the talks, which are covering territory and issues that go beyond the scope of FERC, say they could be ready to present a package to FERC by November. FERC then has the option to incorporate into the new license the parts of the settlement that pertain specifically to the dams.

So who are these stakeholders, and what are they talking about? They include the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Karuk and Klamath tribes; the Klamath Water Users Association; the states of Oregon and California; Siskiyou, Klamath and Humboldt counties; a slew of federal agencies, including NOAA, USFWS and the Bureau of Reclamation; and numerous conservation groups including CalTrout, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, the Northcoast Environmental Center and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. PacifiCorp also has been at the table on occasion.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever been associated with," says Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents irrigation districts in the upper basin. "You have vastly different philosophies and ideologies. You have people with years of history of fighting each other, and litigating. You've got all the players. You've got the tension of the Bush Administration."

While the parties have kept mum on the emerging framework, they readily reveal their expectations.

"We have three things we have identified from the beginning that we need to have addressed in a settlement," says Addington. The farmers want affordable power -- something they've enjoyed for nearly a hundred years, initially in an agreement with the hydro dams' first operator. But PacifiCorp has decided not to renew its 50-year low-cost power contract with the irrigators, so the farmers could be in the market.

The farmers also want a known quantity of water. And they want assurances that salmon habitat restoration in the upper basin doesn't backfire on them. "If dams come down, if fish passage is put in, if there's going to be an introduction of fish to the upper basin -- if people recognize it's a good thing to open it up to habitat -- we're probably paranoid, but, the regulatory significance of that ... what does it mean for us?" Addington asks.

The tribes, conservation groups and some others want four dams removed by 2015, and for the river entire, including tributaries above the dams, to be restored.

"I think we're making big progress," says Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign coordinator for the Karuk Tribe. "We're talking about instream flows in the river, and irrigation diversions -- how much water can these guys take and leave enough for fish in the river, so we can have farms and fish? We're looking at a future where, every fall, there'll be a salmon and a potato festival.

"And, we're talking about affordable power rates for the farmers. Their power rates are going up 1,200 percent. Their power needs are relatively modest, so there's opportunity for them to set up their own power district, perhaps develop some solar energy. ... But they might need some funding. We're saying, hey, you help us with those dams, and we'll help you with your power."

Addington echoes that promise. "If we can achieve what we need, we'll help them achieve what they need," he says.

So everything's going swimmingly -- except, that is, with one key stakeholder, PacifiCorp. "Most of the talks have been without PacifiCorp, because the company hasn't been very helpful," says Tucker. "They've refused to provide data sets. They keep giving lip service to settlement, and [they] have proposed options. But the options would not get the dams out in a timely manner."

At some point, Tucker says, a settlement package must be offered to FERC. "We can send it to FERC without PacifiCorp's endorsement, or we can convince PacifiCorp to come along and join us. ... We've got to get the company on board."

It's unclear yet whether two events last week might prod PacifiCorp in that direction -- or make it balk even more. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway which controls the subsidiary that now runs PacifiCorp, didn't budge last weekend when North Coast tribal members appealed to him and his 27,000 attending shareholders to take down the Klamath dams. He said he left that decision to FERC.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed May 2 against PacifiCorp seeks immediate removal of the dams. The plaintiffs -- the nonprofit group Klamath Riverkeeper and seven individuals (four Yurok and Karuk tribal fishermen and two tribal world renewal priests who use the river for ceremonies, and a Berkeley-based commercial fisherman) -- claim PacifiCorp's dams have created disruptive flows and warm water temperatures, fostering growth of an algae called Microcystis aeruginosa. The algae has produced liver and tumor-promoting toxins recorded in concentrations far above World Health Organization standards for public safety, and "significantly reduced the Klamath fishery population, limiting both the tribe members' and the commercial fishermen's catch and jeopardizing their economic survival," according to the lawsuit.

"The people on the lawsuit are not part of the settlement talks," clarifies Regina Chichizola of Klamath Riverkeeper. "The reason we felt we had to file the suit was because the talks have gone on for a long time. With the algae, nothing has been happening. PacifiCorp has fought us every step of the way. And now, with summer coming, we're looking at toxic algae blooms up to 5,000 times the level" recommended as safe by the WHO. "We need relief."

The plaintiffs demand a jury trial. And their lawyers are heavy hitters. They include Joe Cotchett, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., of Kennedy & Madonna, LLP. "Why take this case?" said the brusque Cotchett last week on the telephone. "Why wouldn't I take it? They're very deserving and wonderful people. If you can't represent Native Americans, who can you represent?"

Cotchett frames the lawsuit somewhat differently than Chichizola. "The lawsuit was only necessitated by the fact that the resolution talks have either slowed down or stalled," he said.

Jill Geist, the Humboldt County supervisor taking part in the settlement talks, says she was surprised to hear of the lawsuit last week but notes that it deals specifically with the toxins. The talks focus on a multitude of long-term solutions to water quality and supply issues. "And you'll notice that the fingerpointing and rhetoric has toned down" between the farmers and fishermen, she says.

Addington, of the KWUA, says of the lawsuit that he "personally wouldn't have gone that route" and he hopes "they don't go too far." He also congenially refused repeated pleading by Tucker to join in on the Omaha demonstrations: "I told him it's really not our style. But we support what they're doing and their drawing attention to it. And at the end of the day, when we get ready to implement the settlement, we're going to need all the attention we can get."

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