Tribes Call for Removal of Dams That Block Journey of Salmon

Tribes Call for Removal of Dams That Block Journey of Salmon

By William Yardley
New York Times
August 02, 2006
SEATTLE, Aug. 2 — Indian tribes along the Klamath River rallied in Portland on Wednesday for the removal of four hydroelectric dams that block salmon from spawning in their historic habitat upriver, and they said they intended to pressure the governors of Oregon and California to help push for removing the dams.The Yurok and Karuk tribes in California and the Klamath tribes of Oregon also said public comments by Bill Fehrman, the new president of PacifiCorp, the power company that owns the dams on the Klamath, reflected new potential for a settlement in one of the most enduring disputes at the nexus of fishing, farming and power supply in the Northwest.

Mr. Fehrman, in a statement released Wednesday, said: “We have heard the tribes’ concerns. We are not opposed to dam removal or other settlement opportunities as long as our customers are not harmed and our property rights are respected.”

While the tribes cast the statement as signaling a shift, Dave Kvamme, a spokesman for the company, said Mr. Fehrman’s statement, in a news release timed to coincide with the rally, was simply his first public comments reflecting a longstanding company policy.

He said that Mr. Fehrman, who became president this year, when PacifiCorp was bought by MidAmerican Holdings Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has been frequently meeting with tribal leaders and that “he and the tribes have connected on some level.”

Craig Tucker, a spokesman for the Karuk tribe, which has about 3,400 members, said the tribes intended to put pressure on Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski of Oregon and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to find ways to pay for removing the dams, providing power from other sources and restoring fish habitat along the river, which begins in southern Oregon and meets the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.

Mike Carrier, Mr. Kulongoski’s natural resources policy director, is to meet with tribal leaders on Thursday. Mr. Carrier said the governor favored positions of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, both of which say PacificCorp must provide some form of passage for salmon above the dams. The National Marine Fisheries Service specifically says dams should be removed to make that happen, Mr. Carrier said.

Removing the dams and restoring the river for fish would be enormously expensive, Mr. Carrier said, and would “really need significant federal support.” He said he knew of no reliable estimate of the costs. He said he did not view Mr. Fehrman’s comments on Wednesday as a breakthrough, “especially with the caveat of ‘as long as our customers are not harmed and our property rights are respected.’ In other words, don’t ask us to bear the costs.”

Read the original story