The Klamath River near the California-Oregon border has been a hotspot in the clash over endangered salmon runs and the irrigation needs of area farmers, but a formal deal reached yesterday suggests a way out of the long-standing disagreements. The plan — agreed to by a diverse group of stakeholders in the region including Indian tribes, government agencies, farmers, fishers, and a number of conservation groups — advocates for removal of four dams on the Klamath and outlines clear water-sharing guidelines. It would open up some 300 miles of river that’s been inaccessible to imperiled salmon, and restore 60 miles of current reservoir to unblocked river. While the deal is a major development, it still needs approval from several federal agencies and also from the company that owns the dams, the utility PacifiCorp. The plan also hinges on the approval of about $400 million in new funds from Congress. Then there’s the small matter of locating another $180 million to actually remove the dams. However, if the deal goes as planned, the dams could be removed as early as 2015.

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