Environmentalists Want N. California Dams Torn Down
Apr. 26 - KGO (KGO) -- Warren Buffett is one of the world's richest men. He's used to building wealth. But a group of environmentalists and Indian tribes want him to tear down some assets he bought just a year ago -- three hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River, a meandering stream in the far northeastern corner of California. It's a battle that pits clean energy against a clean river.
These are the three dams along the lower Klamath River, shown in video shot by dam opponents. They're in far northwest California and generate hydroelectric power for nearly 200,000 people.
The company that operates them is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. He's getting visitors next week who want him to tear them down.
Kelly Catlett, Friends of the River: "We're not going to criticize Warren Buffett or to rain on their parade. We're going to educate."
Kelly Catlett, along with other critics, say the dams have created massive fish kills and have created growth of toxic algae.
Frankie Joe Myers, a member of the Yurok Tribe, would like to see the river return to the state his father saw.
Frankie Joe Myers, Yurok tribe member: "He was able to, as a young boy, as a young man, was able to go down to the creek where we live and actually scoop the salmon directly out of the creek for fresh meat and for smoked salmon."
It's not too late to save the river, according to commercial fishermen who count on the Klamath's spawning grounds to supply wild salmon.
Mike Hudson, Half Moon Bay fisherman: "The real renewable resource of the Klamath River is our salmon, and the salmon will come back once the dams are down."
To give you a sense of the magnitude of the problem, tribal leaders and environmentalists say the Klamath River used to have up to a million salmon in a good year, but that population has dropped to about 35,000.
PacifiCorp, the dam's operators, says meetings are ongoing with 26 concerned groups. PacifiCorp is in the processing of applying to re-license the dams.
U.S. interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne says the issue is clean water versus clean energy -- a difficult choice.
Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. interior secretary: "Time and time again, I've seen where we've had tough issues, but having people sit down, leave the rhetoric outside and discuss them openly and honestly, that you get to results."
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