LOS ANGELES — State and federal officials signed an agreement Wednesday to remove four hydroelectric dams in northern California and Oregon at an estimated cost of $290 million.
Investor-owned utility PacificCorp will pay the first $200 million of dam removal costs with California contributing up to $250 million to pay for any additional cost above what the utility contributes, said Bob Gravely, a PacificCorp spokesman.
California Gov. Jerry Brown included $250 million in this year's budget proposal for the Klamath dam projects. The money would come from issuing general obligation bonds through the $7.2 billion Proposition 1 water bond approved by voters in November 2014.
"This historic agreement will enable Oregon and California and the interested parties to get these four dams finally removed and the Klamath River restored to its pristine beauty," the California governor said.
It took almost a decade for the two states, the utility, farmers, ranchers and American Indian tribes to reach an agreement in 2010 on the dam removal and restoration process. After that, Congress failed to approve the legislation needed for the project to move forward.
The original agreement would have put the U.S. Department of the Interior in charge of dam removal, which some members of Congress disagreed with, Gravely said.
The parties crafted an alternative path with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overseeing dam removal, rather than Interior, Gravely said.
FERC has traditionally been tasked with overseeing dam removal, so the change reverts responsibility back to the federal agency that typically handles the process.
Because dam removal is being undertaken through the FERC process, Congress does not need to authorize dam removal, according to a Department of the Interior spokeswoman.
"The parties who have worked for decades to restore the Klamath Basin are reaffirming their commitment to each other for the shared vision of fisheries restoration and irrigated agriculture co-existing as we move into the future," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.
The dams supply only 1.5% of the power generated by investor-owned PacificCorp, Gravely said, meaning the utility will not have to find other ways of supplying power to its customers.
Oregon is contributing through costs absorbed by the utility's customers, Gravely said. Oregon has 560,000 customers of the utility to the 45,000 in California, he said.
The company has already set aside $100 million collected from customers since the original agreements were struck in 2010 that can be used toward the project once it is approved by FERC. The dams were to be removed by 2020 under the old Interior Department plan, which Gravely said they expect to build on, but Gravely said there is no concrete timeline at this point, because FERC could request changes.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the dual agreements "more than ink and paper, they are a roadmap to the future of the Klamath Basin and of the people who live there."
She said the collaboration will ensure the recovery of the Klamath's historic fishing grounds while sustaining the region's farming and ranching heritage.
The parties signed two agreements Wednesday that incorporate key aspects of the three agreements signed in 2010 needed for dam removal and habitat restoration to move forward.
The agreement and a removal plan will be filed in early July with FERC. Under the agreement, PacficCorp will transfer its license to operate the Klamath River dams to the Klamath River Renewal Corp., a private company whose board and directors will be selected by California and Oregon officials.
The signing took place at the mouth of the Klamath River on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath, Calif.