Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Klamath Dams

Dam removal in this case, if residential, business, and agricultural needs are addressed, could be worthwhile, and a natural salmon run restored.

Editorial: Historic opportunity
Warren Buffett, take down those dams!
- Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here's a ceremony we look forward to witnessing: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, standing on the banks of the Klamath River, along with his Oregon counterpart, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and legendary investor Warren Buffett, an old friend of Schwarzenegger.

The three men are there to celebrate the removal of four obsolete dams on the Klamath. The removal of these dams kicks off a major restoration project for Northern California's second-largest river, which has its headwaters in the Oregon Cascades, and an end to the water wars that have long consumed this region. All the old warriors are there: the farmers, the environmentalists, the Indian tribes and Pacific Coast fishermen, who look forward to the return of robust salmon runs on the Klamath.

The conditions are ripe for such a historic deal. Buffett, the billionaire investor, could end up being the linchpin. Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings owns PacifiCorp, a utility that receives about 2 percent of its energy from hydroelectric power plants at these dams. PacifiCorp hasn't yet agreed to decommission these dams. There are several reasons why it should do so.

For nearly a decade, conflict has embroiled the Klamath. In 2001, the federal government cut back irrigation water to farmers so it could help salmon and other fish protected under the Endangered Species Act. Farmers protested, and suddenly the entire nation was watching. Since then, the federal government has spent about $40 million a year on water banking and other programs aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Klamath crisis.