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Deal Brokered for Biggest Dam Removal Project in U.S.

Officials have brokered a deal to remove dams from the Klamath River in the Pacific Northwest -- a plan intended to counteract sharp declines in salmon counts and appease environmentalists. But the plan is also meeting criticism.

"The deal, which could require fiscally strapped California to finance $250 million of the demolition costs, came under immediate attack from foes who called it a scheme riddled with loopholes that favor farmers and other allies of the outgoing president."

"The agreement in principal was signed by officials from the Department of the Interior, the states of California and Oregon, and PacifiCorp, the Portland, Ore., utility that owns the dams. It commits all sides to work toward dam removal by 2020."

"The river has been the focus of a long and volatile water war pitting the needs of farmers against the survival of endangered fish. Howls of protest erupted when authorities shut off irrigation deliveries during the drought of 2001. Restoration of those diversions in 2002 was blamed for the deaths of 70,000 adult salmon returning to spawn."

"In the years since, conditions on the Klamath River have been implicated in a steep salmon decline that has undercut the West Coast commercial fishing industry."

"A final agreement is to be signed by June 30. That would launch an intense scientific and economic analysis to determine if dam removal is feasible and cost-effective, a process to be concluded with a decision by the Interior secretary in March 2012."

"The deal also calls on Congress to approve a $1-billion restoration package for the river basin that won broad support in the region earlier this year. Some environmental groups say that accord bends too far to deliver abundant water and cheap power to farmers."

Full Story: Federal and state officials sign nonbinding deal to remove Klamath River dams

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