An agreement was reached to settle one of the West\u2019s most contentious water disputes. It hinges on removing four hydroelectric dams to restore decimated salmon runs. The deal, signed last week, embraces the Klamath Basin Indian tribes, farmers, fishing and conservation groups, and agencies. Portland-based PacifiCorp, which owns the Klamath River dams, however, must agree to the plan that would entail the largest dam removal in U.S. history to restore 300 miles of upstream habitat for imperiled salmon, steelhead, and Pacific Lamprey. If PacifiCorp agrees and funding is secured, removal of the four lower Klamath dams could begin as early as 2015. \u201cNow we\u2019ve got a billion dollar wish list. Who pays for that?\u201d asked PacifiCorp spokesman Paul Vogel. \u201cThe agreement unfortunately doesn\u2019t provide any funding mechanism.\u201d PacifiCorp did not take part in the two-year long negotiations with federal, state, and local agencies. It continues to seek a new 50-year license for the 169 MW Klamath Hydroelectric Project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The 26-member Klamath Settlement Group and two other parties, which oppose the agreement, have been conducting separate closed-door negotiations with PacifiCorp for the past three years over its re-licensing application. \u201cWe\u2019ve been on record as saying we\u2019re open to considering taking out the four dams. But our customers have to be protected, and they can\u2019t be expected to sign a blank check to fulfill someone\u2019s agenda,\u201d Vogel said. Nonetheless, the agreement represents a milestone in achieving consensus among often warring farmers, tribes, fishers, and conservationists over dividing Klamath water resources between Upper Basin irrigators and fish protected by the Endangered Species Act. The proposed $1 billion Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement predominantly would fund restoration of salmon fisheries and increase in-stream river flows for fish over the next decade. The Klamath River historically hosted the third largest salmon runs in the West. PacifiCorp supplies power to about 1.6 million customers in six western states. The Klamath project is relatively small, providing electricity to about 70,000 households. The California Energy Commission has concluded that the Klamath hydro dams are not critical to the region because PacifiCorp could easily purchase replacement power for its customers The deal would open 300 miles of rivers that have not seen salmon in the past century and restore 60 miles of reservoir to free-flowing river, according to American Rivers, a conservation group. More than half of the money for the restoration could come from federal funds already allocated for Klamath salmon hatcheries and restoration projects to mitigate the dams\u2019 impact, federal officials said. In that case only $40 million a year of additional funding would be needed for Klamath restoration projects. The CEC and FERC both have concluded that removing the four Klamath dams would be cheaper than installing fish ladders and turbine screens at the dams and increasing in-stream flows for fish mandated by federal wildlife agencies. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oppose renewing PacifiCorp\u2019s license for the Klamath dams unless the power company complies with its fish-way conditions. If the public utility commissions in the six states where PacifiCorp operates agree that removing the dams is the cheapest option they could prevent PacifiCorp from passing on the costs of the fish passages to ratepayers. The agreement must be reviewed by federal wildlife agencies, FERC, and the U.S. Department of Justice for compliance with federal law. The agreement would guarantee a reliable source of irrigation water and affordable pumping power to farmers in the Upper Klamath Basin represented by the Klamath Water Users Association. The three counties and irrigation districts that are parties to the agreement plan to hold public hearings on the proposal to solicit public input on whether to sign it.