Native Americans and environmentalists campaign to remove Klamath Basin Dam, 2004-2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
July
2004
to
February
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Oregon and California
Goals: 
To remove the dams and restore the salmon population.
 

The Klamath was one of the largest and most important rivers in the American northwest, running through Oregon and California. It was home to four Native American tribes and many fishermen and provided irrigation water for nearby farmers. Between 1902 and 1962, energy producing PacifiCorp constructed five dams on the Klamath for hydropower purposes. Although PacifiCorp has turned a consistent profit since then, the environmental damage caused by the dams has been enormous. Water quality has steadily declined; temperatures rose to lethal levels and the still warmth of reservoirs created a perfect breeding ground for toxic algae. The once abundant salmon population has dwindled, and has been listed on the Federal Endangered Species Act. The dams deny fish access to their natural breeding grounds, hastening the decline of the population. This is problematic for all who live nearby. Tribes and fishermen can no longer fish, an act their food supply and livelihoods depend on. Farmers can no longer use the Klamath for irrigation because the water could do more harm than good. Thousands were out of work and needed to rely on disaster relief funds.

The native tribes of the Klamath banded together with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and river advocacy groups to get the dams removed.

In July of 2004, twenty-six people from environmental organizations, academic organizations, and Native American tribes travelled to Scotland to protest, lobby, and negotiate with Scottish Power, a parent company of PacifiCorp. They held a salmon bake on July 22 and disrupted Scottish Power’s annual shareholders meeting by picketing outside on the 23rd at the Edinburgh Festival Theater.

On September 26, 2005, river residents and tribe members staged a protest at the Lloyd Tower in Portland, Oregon. There were educational speakers and appeals to those walking by the protest.

Four of the six dams were up for re-licensing in August of 2006. Members of the Karuk and Yurok tribes marched through Portland with commercial fishermen and conservation groups beginning at 11 am on August 2 to protest the absence of salmon. They converged at the Portland Convention Center, where the International Hydropower industry was meeting for their bi-annual Hydro-vision conference and held a rally. They marched holding signs and fish puppets and then destroyed a model dam on the steps of the convention center.

On April 26, 2007, Klamath Basin tribal leaders and commercial fisherman launched a caravan from San Francisco to PacifiCorp headquarters in Salt Lake City, then on to Omaha, Nebraska, to Berkshire Hathaway, another parent company of PacifiCorp. They hoped to meet with PacifiCorp owner Warren Buffett and persuade him to remove the dams.

In May 2008, tribal members and fishermen protested in front of the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, attended by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Protesters got in line at 2am in the rain to ensure that they would be able to personally address Buffett. They unfurled a banner reading “Warren, un-dam the Klamath! Sign the agreement now!” The campaign confronted Buffett personally by going after his pillars of support in the form of shareholders and the media. The demonstrations were led by Yurok schoolteacher Georgianna Myers and Chook Chook Hillman, handing out leaflets to shareholders. Although Buffett declined to engage with protesters, the demonstration made the dam the meeting’s most discussed issue.

September 18, 2008, was dubbed “Day of Action Against PacifiCorp.” Activists hung a large banner over a Portland interstate reading “Warren Buffett Kills Salmon, Jobs and Communities.” At noon, two hundred people then marched from Holladay Park to a 1 pm PacifiCorp press conference. After the conference, 70 people occupied the area in front of PacifiCorp headquarters, effectively shutting down the entrance. Police showed up in riot gear but made no arrests. Dam removal advocates including the American Indian Movement members and fishermen pounded on the building’s doors, disrupting business.

In February 2010, American River Staff and Richard Roos-Collins of the Natural Heritage Institute signed two settlement agreements with PacifiCorp and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Salem, Oregon. They agreed to remove the dams, restore the Klamath and help revive the salmon population. However the deal is precarious, with the potential to fall apart.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Bacher, Dan, and Malena Marvin. "Tribes and Fishermen Speak Truth." Klamath River News. Summer 2008. 6 Apr. 2011. <http://www.klamathriver.org/Documents/KlamathRiverNews-Summer08.pdf>.

"Indigenous Groups and Climate Activists Protest Pacificorps Klamath Dam’s Devastation in Portland." Rising Tide North America. 10 Oct. 2008. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.risingtidenorthamerica.org/wordpress/2008/10/10/indigenous-groups-and-climate-activists-protest-pacificorps-kalamth-dams-devastation-in-portland/>.

Kadel, Steve. "Tribes to March in Protest of Klamath Dams." Herald and News. 2 Aug. 2006. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.heraldandnews.com/news/local_news/article_d46f77b0-0460-535f-ada9-76a81d114de2.html>.

"Klamath River, OR and CA." American Rivers. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.americanrivers.org/our-work/restoring-rivers/dams/projects/restoring-klamath-river.html>.

Meredith, Peter. "Fishermen Protest to Restore the Klamath River and the Salmon Season on the Pacific Coast. | Mother Jones." Mother Jones. 24 Apr. 2006. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://motherjones.com/mojo/2006/04/fishermen-protest-restore-klamath-river-and-salmon-season-pacific-coast>.

"Native Americans Protest at Scottish Power for River Restoration." Indymedia Scotland. 28 July 2004. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.indymediascotland.org/node/849>.

"Pacificorp's Dams on the Klamath River." Klamath Riverkeeper. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.klamathriver.org/Pacificorps-Dams.html>.

"Press Release: Save the Salmon Rally for the Upper Klamath and Lower River Salmon! Wednesday, August 2, 2006 in Portland, Oregon." The Klamath Tribes. 21 July 2006. 06 Apr. 2011. <http://www.klamathtribes.org/information/pressreleases/2006/2006-7-21.html>.

Additional Notes: 
Edited by Max Rennebohm (28/07/2011)
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Rebecca Contreras, 06/04/2011