Sonoma County's open space district and associated property owners will get $7.9 million as part of a settlement of a lawsuit against Calpine Corp. over damage to county-protected lands in the 2004 Geysers Fire.
The county's share of the settlement is $3.77 million.
The 12,525-acre blaze swept over the Mayacmas Mountains in Sonoma and Lake counties and scorched about 4,600 acres protected under conservation easements owned by the county's Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
The fire, which started on Sept. 3, was traced back to a splice in a high-voltage line that showered dry grass with hot metal when the line short-circuited, according to a state investigation.
At peak staffing, it took 2,621 firefighters and support personnel from local, state and federal agencies using 176 engines, 25 bulldozers, 20 truck tankers, seven air tankers and 19 helicopters to put out the eight-day blaze.
Lost in the fire were six cabins, about a dozen vehicles and power and communications equipment belonging to companies including PG&E, SBC and Calpine, the largest geothermal operator at The Geysers.
Legal battles sprung up in the aftermath. The state sought to recover $14 million in firefighting costs from Calpine. It ultimately got about $10.8 million from a 2010 settlement with the company.
The Northern California Power Agency, which owns power plants at The Geysers, also sued Calpine for lost income because of the fire. Its settlement included up to $1.5 million for damage to power and communications equipment.
Altogether, up to 50 claims were filed against Calpine over the fire. Most have been settled.
The 2009 lawsuit filed by the open space district and several associated landowners sought money to cover land values and natural resources damaged by the fire.
The suit listed loss of wildlife habitat, scenic values, timber and watershed functions, as well as costs for restoration. The district and a county attorney would not disclose the figure for damages sought in the lawsuit.
The case was set for trial in October.
In the agreement approved last week by the district board — made up of county supervisors — Calpine agreed to have its insurers pay $3.77 to settle the county's claims.
The net amount to the district after paying for private legal representation and expert witnesses is estimated at nearly $2.7 million.
Bill Keene, the district general manager, said the money likely will be used to support district activities, including additional land protection, in the Mayacmas Mountains.
"It's a good day for the district in terms of getting compensated for values that were lost," Keene said.
The majority of the settlement money in the county case, more than $4.1 million, will go to several landowners whose property is protected by district easements and who joined the district's lawsuit.
The landowners include Jim and Shirley Modini, Henry and Doris McMicking, a real estate partnership called the Maacama Valley Partners and the National Audubon Society, which owns a bird and wildlife sanctuary off Pine Flat Road. Some have not yet formally adopted the settlement.
A deal between the plaintiffs designates most of the money paid to landowners for restoration of the burned areas, county officials said.
As a condition the settlement, Calpine did not admit liability for damages caused by the fire.