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$5 billion deal separate from Klamath relicensing

Tam Moore
Oregon Staff Writer

Along the Klamath River, where the 2006 relicensing of PacifiCorp hydroelectric plants is a hot topic, advocates for removal of dams are setting up a new Internet site. Its objective is telling the family of billionaire Warren Buffett about the river’s complex issues.

Jack Ellwanger, a member of the Klamath Restoration Council and builder of the new cybersite to be called “River of Conscience,” says everyone he’s talked with likes the idea.

Buffett’s Mid-America Energy Holdings Co. last week struck a deal to buy PacifiCorp from Scottish Power for $5.1 billion and assumption of an estimated $3.4 billion in debt.

Leaf Hillman, an elder in the Karuk Tribe who last year went to Scotland to lobby Scottish Power for restoration of Klamath fish runs, issued a press release saying the international company is trying to put off dam removal “to someone else.”

Other Klamath River activists discovered that Buffett’s children are involved in art and environmental causes, triggering Ellwanger’s effort to collect poems and pictures that make the case for a restored river.

Around Klamath Falls, where farmers identified with the federal Klamath Reclamation Project have discount irrigation power rates tied to the hydro contracts, the Mid America deal also drew attention. The Oregon Public Utility Commission in late May heard arguments from farmers favoring continuation of low-cost ag rates.

Klamath Water Users Association pointed to a Wall Street Journal report that puts the Mid America deal under a 1935 law subjecting utility mergers to extensive federal review, and raises the possibility that a change in the law may be needed.

An observer closer to the action, PacifiCorp information officer Jon Coney, says there’s no connection between federal relicensing of those dams and the pending sale of the electric utility operating in six western states.

Coney says the lengthy Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioning relicensing process began before Scottish Power purchased PacifiCorp six years ago. PacifiCorp is the applicant, and it expects to get the renewed license with conditions yet to be determined, in the spring of 2006.

The Mid-America deal to buy the company is on a separate track. Among other things, it also faces review by public utility commissions in most of the six states. Coney says he has no idea when those ownership reviews might begin. He’s been told by company management the sale should become final “sometime in 2006.”

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore. His e-mail address is tmoore@capitalpress.com.





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