PABLO – A price has been set for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to acquire Kerr Dam next year – and the number is tens of millions of dollars closer to what the tribes said it was worth than what PPL Montana had sought.

CSKT almost immediately filed formal notice with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding their intent to acquire the Kerr Project.

The only step left is to write the check, according to Brian Lipscomb, CEO of Energy Keepers, a federally chartered corporation wholly owned by the tribes, and which will purchase the dam on behalf of the tribes.

The check will be for $18,289,798.

That’s the figure an American Arbitration Association panel came up with Monday after weighing arguments from both the tribes, who said $14.7 million was a fair price, and PPL Montana, which said the acquisition cost should be almost $50 million.

Extensive hearings on the price were held in January.

“This is a historic day for the Confederated Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Tribes,” CSKT Chairman Ron Trahan said. “We’ve been working toward this for 40 years. It brings tears to my eyes, because it’s something we never quit on.”

The earliest the transfer of ownership can take place is Sept. 5, 2015.

***

With new ownership will come a new name for the dam, Lipscomb confirmed Wednesday following a news conference at CSKT headquarters announcing the price.

Opposed by many tribal members on the Flathead Indian Reservation when it was being built, the dam on the lower Flathead River was completed in 1938 and named for the then-president of Montana Power Co., Frank Kerr.

No new name has been selected, and the final decision will rest with the Tribal Council, Lipscomb said.

“We don’t typically name things from a marketing standpoint, but rather choose names based on what the place stands for to us,” Lipscomb said.

Otherwise, the only changes local residents will notice, he said, is that “control will be in local hands, and the economic benefit will stay here instead of going to Pennsylvania.”

PPL, the parent company of PPL Montana, is headquartered in Allentown, Pa.

The tribes must operate the dam under the same licensing requirements as PPL Montana.

Mission Valley Power, which supplies local power and is also run by the tribes, gets its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration, Lipscomb said, while the energy generated by Kerr Dam is sold on the open market.

***

The Flathead Reservation tribes will become the first in the nation to own a major hydroelectric facility.

“We’ve been titled as visionary people, and it plays out,” council member Lloyd Irvine said. Acquisition of the dam “is one of the tools that ensures the future of our people.”

But another council member, Terry Pitts, urged caution.

“We should not be blinded by the bling,” Pitts said. “There will be a lot of issues that come with this. We need to be fully prepared. We need to be cautious and take our time.”

The nearly $35 million difference in what the tribes wanted to pay, and what PPL Montana sought, included some $30 million of potential mitigation costs associated with the dam.

The arbitration panel’s decision “means we won’t have to pay for damages to our own resources,” Lipscomb said. “So we’re pretty excited. We had our day in court, and were dealt with fairly.”

***

Kevin Howlett, now director of CSKT’s Tribal Health Department but a Tribal Council member some three decades ago, said the negotiations back then that led to Wednesday’s announcement were extremely difficult.

“We left a lot on the table, knowing full well we’d get to this point,” Howlett said. “I’m confident future generations will say we did the right thing.”

Howlett said there were council members who opposed acquiring the dam back then, and preferred seeking higher rent for the land where the dam sits.

“But a few progressive members like me, Mickey Pablo, James Steele Sr. and Laurence Kenmille Sr. felt this was the lifeline of our future, and we’d do all we can to get it,” Howlett said.

Trahan likewise paid tribute to “the ancestors who had the vision,” and the many tribal councils over the decades that have set aside funds to enable the purchase.

“I’d also like to thank all the members for the sacrifices they put up with” so the money could be saved for the dam, he added.

CSKT Vice Chair Carole Lankford noted that several tribal members employed while the dam was being built in the 1930s were killed in a landslide during construction.

“When I think of the dam, I think of the lives lost,” Lankford said.

The acquisition price announced by the three-person arbitration panel includes approximately $16.5 million for the tangible plant, and $1.7 million for environmental mitigation costs.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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(11) comments

Mbrett

Below is an interesting article about the original funding for the dam, which may have not even happened if my grandfather did not personally talk with President Roosevelt and ask for the funds.

I am happy that CSKT is finally getting control of this dam built on their land.

See the article below:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=m-BlAAAAIBAJ&sjid=HY8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=7277,7138234&dq=montana+james+brett+roosevelt&hl=en

CSKT Native

Oh, and now the same tired argument about taxes....do either of you fine civic-minded folks have any clue about taxes the CSKT already pay, or taxes already paid by fee-landing owning tribal members? No you don't. Do you have any idea of the amount of payment-in-lieu of taxes the Tribes pay? No you don't. Do you have any idea of the value of the services the Tribes provide, such as roads maintenance, sanding and plowing that are enjoyed by all Lake County residents that do not cost Lake County taxpayers any money? No you don't. Did you cry the blues when Plum Creek Timber Co. took the money and ran from the mill in Pablo? I'm sure you didn't. Rez Kid in particular, this was far before your time here so in that case your ignorance is actually excusable. That little move by Plum Creek cost Mission Valley Power alone about 25% of their revenue. Did you lose any sleep over that? I think not. When you have any legitimate arguments with actual facts, I'll be here waiting.

William R. Swaney (no fake name needed)

MTminded

You miss the point, CSKT Native. Taxes are paid in Lake County, by many of the residents and businesses there, and those taxes fund much of the infrastructure and/or services utilized and/or available to those many residents. The loss of tax revenues from the current Kerr Dam owners is going to be felt throughout Lake County, with no foreseeable replacement revenue available. How is that helpful to ANY of Lake County's residents?

Rez Kid

I just talked to the Lake Co. Treasurer's office and was told the Kerr dam pays just a little over $1 million in property taxes a year to Lake Co. Once the CSKT buys the dam they will pay zero taxes because the tribe does not have to pay property taxes (even though they take advantage of all the services provided by property taxes, especially schools). The Lake Co commisioners have not gotten any commitment from the tribe to make up for this shortfall, so the taxpayers of Lake Co. will soon see a big increase in property taxes to cover the refusal of the CSKT to contribute their fair share.

MTminded

PPL is likely the single largest tax payer in Lake County. Will the CSKT continue to supply tax revenues from the dam? NO! The tribe is exempt from taxes. Better than $250,000 will be lost annually in Lake County's public school budgets. Where are these missing tax dollars to be found? Walmart? or higher property taxes?

Ofthemontiers
Ofthemontiers

$150 million "fair market value" for the dam? Based on what? .... That's what I thought.

Imagine the tribe getting "money for nothing" from a dam built on their property. I believe these are called "royalties," the like of which people in , say, North Dakota get from gas companies for extracting a valuable resource from their properties.
Oh!- this has gotta stop, huh Mr. Gale

Oh, and btw: no appraiser ever evaluates an existing building or structure by determining what it would cost to build it today. That would be- dare I say it?- STUPID.

Brian Dumontier

Sukey

Since the tribes were opposed to this dam when it was being built, are they going to rip it down to help their fish spawn?

Geoff Badenoch

Sometimes the most amazing, game changing political dramas play out over a generation or two. In this case, the Tribes and their leaders focused on a vision, played by the rules and through their determination and the soundness of their arguments are now in a position to acquire the Kerr Dam, just like those Tribal Council members of so many years ago envisioned. It is an occasion where the Tribal leaders kept their eyes on the long view while focusing on what was in front of them.

Anyone doing business with the Tribes should acknowledge the takeaway: The Tribes are for real, they have the tools, the commitment and the ability to play by the rules as well as anyone.

CSKT Native

Lol "Rez Kid" continues to display a staggering lack of knowledge..... but not surprising. Last I knew that MVP rates were the second lowest in the nation...just how low does he think is fair??

jimira

$18,289,000 to be exact... For an 80 year old dam... I can live with that. I like how PPL tried to pass on their mitigation costs in the deal. Apparently, the arbitrators thought otherwise. Now the Tribe has to walk the walk on mitigation cost in the future. The extra money from Kerr Dam will be useful in aiding the Tribes continued progress. Unless, of course, they stupidly give it all away in wasteful per capita payments.... CSKT Tribal Council better have a short and long term plan on what they are going to do with the funds generated from Kerr. NO MORE PLAYING IT BY EAR.......

Rez Kid

The fair market value of this dam is about $150 million on the open market. The tribe has been getting $19 million a year from PPL (Kerr Dam) for doing nothing for years. Now they gave it to them for pennies on the dollar. What a sham!!! It would cost $650 million to build this dam today. Wonder if they will raise the rates for Mission Valley Power customers (they should lower them since they got such a steal of a deal.?

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