Pact reached for Oroville Dam
The California Department of Water Resources says a milestone has been reached in its relicensing effort for Oroville Dam.
Negotiators representing a majority of the participating organizations have agreed to recommend that their organizations sign the agreement, the department said Friday.
The consensus reached at a meeting Wednesday in Oroville was a major step in the six-year effort to relicense the dam for another 50 years.
“We are almost out of the woods but still have some significant steps in the process,” said Rick Ramirez, the department's program manager for Oroville Facilities Relicensing.
Ramirez said it is beneficial to go to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a united stakeholder group.
Total cost of the settlement agreement to DWR has been estimated at $1 billion over 50 years, with nearly half of those funds targeted for recreational purposes. Included in that amount is $62 million that DWR agreed to provide for beneficial projects outside the FERC boundary selected through a community based steering committee.
Although many local stakeholders and key regulatory agencies are satisfied with the negotiation results, a few groups continue to seek additional consideration of their issues.
The remaining steps in the FERC processing of DWR's license application will weigh such concerns against the benefits and consensus represented in the settlement agreement.
“Despite our best efforts, we found that several demands were completely beyond the scope of what could be justified in this type of agreement,” Acting DWR Deputy Director Raphael Torres said in a statement.
“We are extremely pleased that DWR and the overwhelming majority of stakeholders and key governmental agencies have agreed on how to address the most vital concerns in the agreement.”
DWR and the stakeholders in support of the proposed agreement will now finalize the agreement language and sign the document in late March for submittal to FERC.
Wednesday's meeting included no Yuba-Sutter parties and did not delve into flood control issues, which were deemed to be out of the scope of the relicensing process because the department has given control to prescribe flood measures to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
After filing the agreement with FERC in late March, DWR hopes for a decision by March 2007 on conditions and terms for the dam's new 50-year license.
FERC will receive what is called a settlement agreement and determine which recommendations to incorporate into the new license.
The complex negotiations involved Oroville and Butte County communities, federal agencies, state agencies, Native American tribes, local government agencies, environmental and recreational organizations, private citizens and water contractors.
“(Wednesday's) accomplishment is the product of years of hard work on the part of the stakeholders and DWR staff,” Torres said.
“Through a collaborative process, we were able to forge a balanced solution that secures important environmental, recreational, cultural resources, and land use benefits for the community and ecosystem.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter John Dickey can be reached at 749-4711. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.