The four dams on the Klamath River in far Northern California are under relicensing, something that only occurs every 50 years. The dams are owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, who purchased Pacificorp, one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States, three years ago. Many Californians were hopeful this purchase would mean the end to the dams, but their concerns for the salmon fell on deaf ears. Once again, Warren Buffett rebuffed salmon advocates.
On Saturday, May 3, 2008, American Indian tribes and salmon fisherman failed to gain a private audience with Buffett and were ignored at the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Protesters shouted, “Un-dam the Klamath! Bring the salmon home!“, while shareholders enjoyed complimentary cocktails Friday night. For two years, an unprecedented alliance of tribes, businesses, conservation groups and commercial/recreational fishermen has tried to reach an agreement with Buffett for dam removal. Buffett said that his company would not decide the fate of the Klamath dams, but Berkshire will defer to regulators in California and Oregon. Ironically, dam removal is cheaper than building the fish ladders regulators are recommending.
Salmon fishing has been canceled this year and declared a “disaster” in California and Oregon, largely because of the Sacramento River; however, the previous fisheries disaster was due to the Klamath salmon population. This year’s closure amounts to a loss of $255 million and 2,263 jobs to California coastal communities. Just as hard hit, or even harder hit, are the Native Americans in the region, many who traveled to Omaha in protest of the Klamath dams. “It’s the fight for the salmon, and it’s the fight for our species,” said Yurok member Frankie Myers. The salmon have not had full access to the Klamath River since the first dam was built in 1916.