- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

POLSON, Mont. (AP) - The Salish and Kootenai tribes would have to pay nearly $18.3 million to acquire a northwestern Montana hydroelectric dam from PPL Montana, an arbitration panel has determined.

Energy Keepers Inc., a tribally owned corporation, said Wednesday the tribes will notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of their intent to acquire the Kerr Project on the Flathead River southwest of Polson in September 2015.

“Today we enjoy historic success in our diligent effort to acquire the Kerr Project,” said Energy Keepers CEO Brian Lipscomb.

In 1985, FERC issued the dam’s operating license to both Montana Power and the tribes to settle a contested proceeding. Montana Power, which sold its utility assets in 1997, was to operate the project for at least 30 years, after which the tribes would have the option to buy.

PPL Montana, which purchased the 194-megawatt dam from Montana Power, argued the tribes should have to pay $49.4 million for the plant. The tribes countered it should be $14.7 million.

An arbitration panel set the price Monday after extensive hearings in January, KERR-AM reported.

“We had our day in court and the deal we made in 1985 was honored in the binding decision made by the majority of the arbitration panel,” Lipscomb said in a statement Wednesday. “It has taken a lot of work, many sacrifices and a serious determination to get to this historic day.”

NorthWestern Energy has offered $900 million to buy 11 hydroelectric dams in Montana from PPL Montana. That deal, which still has to be approved by regulators, does not affect the sale of Kerr Dam to the tribes.

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Information from: KERR-AM, https://www.750kerr.com/

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