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Tribes set to visit Glasgow HQ in bid to save river fish


May 14, 2004 by Rob Edwards, Environment Editor
Posted by Freeman House <lfhouse@inreach.com> From a Scottish newspaper
ONE of Scotland’s leading multinationals, ScottishPower, is facing angry protests from native Americans who accuse its US subsidiary of destroying a salmon river in California.

Four tribes ? the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Klamath ? fearful for the fate of their traditional fishing grounds, are threatening to bring their protest to ScottishPower’s Glasgow headquarters. They warn the company that it is risking years of bitter conflict and serious damage to its environmental credentials.

According to Leaf Hillman, of the Karuk, shareholders are raking in multi-million pound profits as the tribes suffer. “While they kill the fish with their hydro-power dams, downstream native Americans go without fish to eat or electricity in their homes,” he says.

“ScottishPower claims to be a green utility, but what its subsidiary is doing is cheating us out of a possible solution.” The company is guilty, he alleges, of a “betrayal of trust”.

The Klamath River in northern California and southern Oregon was once the third biggest salmon-producing river in the US. But now two species are extinct, one is threatened and the remaining two have been reduced to 10% of their former populations.

The four tribes, backed by anglers and environmentalists, say dams and power stations operated along the river by ScottishPower’s subsidiary, PacifiCorp, are to blame. The dams have prevented salmon from reaching their natural spawning grounds up river.

“These are small, old dams that provide little power but a do a great deal of damage to the river, blocking hundreds of miles of historic salmon spawning habitat,” said Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Salmon kills caused by these dams have destroyed fishing jobs all along the west coast.”

In 2002, the 240-mile Klamath River suffered the largest fish kill in US history, with more than 33,000 fish dying because of a shortage of good quality water. The tribes and environmentalists claim the dams played “a significant part” in the disaster, though ScottishPower denies this.

The tribes have lived along the Klamath for millennia, depending on its fish for sustenance. Now the 50-year-old hydro schemes have come up for relicensing, they were hoping to get them adapted to enable salmon to swim upriver to spawn as they once did.

But when PacifiCorp submitted its relicensing application in February it failed to promise to install salmon runs, or to investigate shutting down some dams, and instead suggested salmon could be caught and hauled upstream in trucks.

“Despite our good faith involvement with PacifiCorp, we have been ignored,” said Merv George Jr., director of the Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish and Water Commission. “As the parent company, ScottishPower should be held accountable and uphold its responsibilities to native people.”

On May 5, the tribes wrote to its board in Glasgow requesting it direct Pacifi Corp to enter into settlement negotiations. They are also trying to raise money to finance a protest visit to Glasgow to highlight “environmental racism”.

The Klamath power stations generate 151 megawatts, about 2% of all PacifiCorp’s hydroelectricity. The river has 12 turbine generators, five reservoirs and five dams, the largest of which, Iron Gate, is 173ft high.

In November 1999, PacifiCorp was taken over by ScottishPower, which last year had a global turnover of more than £5 billion and a profit before tax of more than £800 million. ScottishPower provides electricity and gas to four million consumers in the UK, many of them in Scotland. ScottishPower argues that the conflicts over the Klamath are a legacy of dams built decades ago to standards very different from today’s. “Removal of the dams would perhaps please the tribes, but it could spell disaster for farmers in the area in terms of irrigation,” said a spokesman. “Our relicensing proposal aims for a compromise. In this situation it is very difficult to please all sides.” PacifiCorp was obliged to seek maximum benefits from a renewable energy source.

Friends of the Earth Scotland sides with the tribes. “Environmental injustices often arise where companies operate overseas, far from the scrutiny of shareholders or customers, and this sounds like a classic example,” said chief executive, Duncan McLaren. “ScottishPower may be proud of its green credentials, but this case makes me question whether it is genuinely accountable to the communities it affects.”


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