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environment | indigenous issues

Bring The Salmon Home - Un-Dam the Klamath!

I went to the Klamath River Tribes film screening and presentation tonight. Many powerful still photos opened up the showing, allowing us to see some of the beauty of the Klamath River, and to understand a little about the way of life the Klamath River tribes are struggling to both restore and preserve.
At issue is the 50 year dam relicensing application due in March of 2006, for the complex of dams along the rivers in the Klamath Basin, where there are currently 6 dams sited. There are already no salmon in the upper Klamath at all, because most of these dams have either no fish ladders, or inadequate ones. Salmon currently are being blocked from 350 miles of spawning habitat as a result of these dams. After the 'bucket brigades' by Klamath basin farmers, encouraged by Gale Norton, over 100,000 fish died on the Klamath directly resulting from lowered water levels.

When this licensing re-application process began, after Pacificorp announced their intention to apply for relicensure for another 50 year term, the public was invited to give input. The tribes offered their input and were invited to help Pacificorp develop a workable solution to meet the water needs along the Klamath. The tribes have worked for well over 3 years with members of each of the four affected tribal nations devoting several hours a week, using quality fishery biologist science, to address the issues of fish passage and water quality. But when Pacificorp came out with their final draft application, there was no mention of environmental impact, water quality, or fish passage provisions.

This is seen as an extreme betrayal of the effort the tribes have put forth to work out a solution with Pacificorp. The tribes then took their struggle to the parent company, Scottish Power, by traveling to Scotland. There they protested in front of Scottish Power during an annual shareholders meeting, where they educated shareholders, and were able to finally meet with the CEO, Ian Russell, who directed the board members to meet with the tribes and find a solution. Because Russell told them last year to keep in touch about how things were progressing, tribal members went back to Scotland this year to report to Russell that things are not progressing well, and that over 100,000 fish have just died, due to poor water quality and warming water temperatures.

This year when they went to Scotland, they were told that Scottish Power will be selling Pacificorp to a company called Mid-America, owned by Warren Buffet. The tribes maintain that since the sale will take at least 1 1/2 years to complete, Scottish Power still has time and a responsibility to work on solutions. The sale has yet to be approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Pacificorp dams on the Klamath River provide less than 2 percent of Pacificorp's total operating power; A study by the California Energy Commission found that already-operational power plants could easily replace any energy lost from decommissioning the Klamath River dams. It is much harder to put monetary value on culturally significant resources, but this is clearly a human rights issue. The health of the Karuk people has suffered greatly with the loss of fish and other water-dependent plants from their diets; A recent study showed that the diabetes rate is 2 times the national average and that cardiovascular disease is 3 times the national average. 90% of the Kiruk people are living below poverty level.

Water Quality is now one of the main issues that the Klamath Tribes are working on calling attention to. Pacificorp was refusing access to information about the algae that collects above the dams. So independent water testing was done by the tribes this year. It was discovered a few months ago that in the summer with the heat and fertilizer runoff, there are huge algae blooms. When the air cools, the algae decomposes, lowering oxygen levels in the water behind the Copco and Iron Gate dams. In the Copco and Iron Gate reservoirs, one type of algae present is toxic to the liver, called microcystis aeruginosa. This algae was found in levels that exceeded 100 times the World Health Organization standards.

The Klamath Tribes in the upper basin have filed suit against Pacificorp for losses of historical fish runs. That case has still not been heard in court, and now that this company is being bought, it's hard to know what will become of that lawsuit.

The sale of Pacificorp and the relicensing of the Klamath River dams are both still under consideration by the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and by the PUC (Public Utility Commission). Cascadians need to put pressure on these agencies, along with our legislators and governor. We need our legislature to take a more active role in the management of the Klamath basin. Fisheries and recreational and cultural values need to take as big a role in decision-making as agriculture. The loss of anadromous fish and all other plant and animal life that depends on the healthy functioning of this ancient ecosystem impacts all Oregonians. We have to speak out to preserve these rivers, and in doing so, preserving the way of life of indigenous peoples. To not do so is to condone genocide. We need to contact our legislators about this gross human rights violation and argue against the relicensure of these dams, and to argue for dam removal.

The groups working on this campaign to remove the dams on the Klamath Basin and raise awareness of the destruction of the native culture and economic and food base being caused by these dams, along with the ecosystem balance being destroyed, include: The Klamath Salmon Media Collaborative, The Klamath Forest Alliance, The Mid Klamath Action Network and others that I didn't write down unfortunately. To get a copy of the dvd's that were shown, or their first newsletter, The Black Oak, packed with amazing articles that will inform, inspire, and anger you about the issues surrounding these native issues along the Klamath Basin, you can email klamathmedia@hotmail.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.karuk.us

Audio of the Event 26.Sep.2005 09:03

Jim Lockhart

Links to audio from the event

Save the Salmon, RealMedia
Save the Salmon, MP3