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Tribes hoping to enlist big
guns in fight against ScottishPower
May 16, 2005
THE Native American tribes suing energy group ScottishPower over hydro-electric dams in the western United States are trying to enlist California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to back their campaign.
ScottishPower's US subsidiary PacifiCorp is in the firing line of the environmental protest which centres on the Klamath river in southern Oregon and northern California. Last month, a magistrate judge recommended that the $1bn lawsuit filed against the company in May 2004 be dismissed as untimely.
The tribes' case had demanded damages related to the alleged destruction of and interference with federal treaty fishing rights because of PacifiCorp's construction and operation of the dams. The tribes claim the dams block 350 miles of historic salmon-spawning grounds
In April, the judge llabelled the lawsuit as "untimely", dismissing the case on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired in 1971. Now the tribes are threatening to refer the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in a process which could drag on for years.
The issue is one of many factors being considered by federal regulators as part of a complex relicensing procedure for the dams, which were acquired by ScottishPower in November 1999 when it bought PacifiCorp.
In the meantime, members of the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok are preparing to descend on Scotland again this summer following their visit last year. The delegation provided some colour at the ScottishPower annual meeting in Edinburgh during a trip which featured traditional costumes and a salmon-smoking demonstration on Calton Hill.
Leaf Hillman, vice-chair of the Karuk tribe who addressed the ScottishPower annual meeting last year, said: "ScottishPower should know that we are returning to Scotland this summer to move our campaign forward – we don't intend to make a wasted trip.
"We will return with greater experience and knowledge and even more resolve than last year."
The public battle looks set to escalate across the Atlantic as well if the tribes succeed in winning support from Hollywood legend Schwarzenegger and his political counterpart in Oregon, Ted Kulongowski.
Hillman said: "To win dam removal we will likely need some state and federal funding to help defray some of the costs. We need Conan the Barbarian to become Conan the Riparian and help us bring the salmon home." Glasgow-based ScottishPower, which is headed by chief executive Ian Russell, has long been expecting the return of the tribes to this year's annual meeting.
Despite ScottishPower and PacifiCorp's efforts to address the concerns of the Native Americans, the tribes say they remain frustrated, while conceding some progress has been made. This year they hope to explain to shareholders what has happened since they last visited Scotland but, having signed a confidentiality agreement, the Native Americans are limited in what they can say.
Klamath tribe member Jeff Mitchell – who is also known by the Native American name Mohiswaqs, translated as "the big man" – said: "Money is not that important to us, but we will fight to the end for our heritage and our salmon."
While the tribes' chances of winning their legal action look slim, ScottishPower has pledged to carry on the dialogue. Mitchell said the tribes were used to negotiations, having dealt for many years with PacifiCorp.
He said: "We will continue our dialogue with ScottishPower and we plan to give the company's shareholders and board members an update on progress at this summer's agm."
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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