Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Warren Buffett and the Klamath Dams

Most people would not know how much Warren Buffett affect the economy of California. He is one of the major stockholders in Midwestern Energy Holdings Co. which in turn recently purchased Pacific Power, an electric company that owns and operates four private dams on the Klamath River. They primarily serve the very Northern California and Southern Oregon.

There dams are now the center of a major controversy. Their license to operate these dams is up for renewal (every 50 years) and the US Government has ordered Pacific Power to make major changes in the manner in which these dams are operated.

I bring up this subject because there are many separate issues that come together and they are all political.
  • With the dams blocking the river, salmon have limited access to spawning grounds.
  • Were that not enough, the US Government had cut off much of the Klamath flow in 2002 to provide additional irrigation capability for Klamath basin farms.
  • The result is a shortage of salmon and a curb on commercial salmon fishing this year.
  • Removal of the dams would make a significant difference in the cost of electricity generation for Pacific Power.
  • Alternative to this hydro-electric power may have a high carbon cost.
As I said, it is not simple. The opponent to the dams include Indian Tribes with treaty rights to salmon, fishermen (both sports and commercial), environmentalists, all joined together in a Klamath Basic Coalition.

The only Green I know of who has opened their mouth about this effort is David Cobb. Back in October, he contributed an OpEd column for the Eureka Times-Standard in which he called for the removal of the dams.

We need more outspoken Greens, getting their commentary into the local papers. It is one additional way to build the party and we need not rely on some Media Committee to do it for us because too many media producers consign Green Party press releases to the round file.

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