This week’s landmark agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams from the Klamath River assumes California voters will approve $250 million in general obligation bonds.
The settlement agreement unveiled Wednesday caps long negotiations among 28 parties that included the federal government, California, Oregon, local Indian tribes and the dam’s owner, PacifiCorp.
The Klamath River runs through Oregon and Northern California.
PacifiCorp, facing the difficult process of relicensing the four dams, instead came to an agreement that it would remove the dams by 2020, as part of a restoration process that, it is hoped, will restore wild salmon runs to the river.
“We haven’t seen salmon in our country for 90 years,” Jeff Mitchell, council member for the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, said in a statement. “This agreement represents our best chance of finally bringing the salmon home to the Upper Basin.”
The dam-removal project is expected to cost about $450 million, of which $200 million would come from surcharges on the electric bills of PacifiCorp customers, primarily in Oregon. Oregon has already passed the necessary law to collect that charge from customers there.
California would contribute $250 million, through yet-to-be authorized general obligation bonds. Authorization requires a supermajority vote of the Legislature followed by a vote of the people in a referendum. They may well be rolled into a larger bond financing plan for water infrastructure currently under negotiation in Sacramento
“This agreement marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Klamath River and for the communities whose health and way of life depend on it,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.