Pacificorp to remove Powerdale dam on Oregon's Hood River

Region: 
States: 

Salem, Ore. -- Today, Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski cheered a cooperative agreement among state and federal resource agencies, PacifiCorp, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, American Rivers and the Hood River Watershed Group, whereby the Powerdale Hydroelectric Project will be decommissioned and portions of it removed beginning in 2010.

The Powerdale Hydroelectric Project is located on the Hood River in Hood River, Oregon. The six-megawatt project is owned by PacifiCorp and can serve the needs of about 3,000 typical residential customers. Powerdale's federal operating license expired in 2000, and rather than accepting a new license, PacifiCorp approached parties to the licensing process to see if an alternative to a new license could be negotiated.

"I'd like to commend all parties to the settlement process for working together to reach common ground," said Governor Kulongoski during a ceremony today in his office at the State Capitol. "Constructive, collaborative settlement talks like these are the model for how difficult natural resource issues should be handled."

"We believe this agreement is in the best interests of our customers because Powerdale will continue to operate for several more years providing low-cost power," said Judi Johansen, chief executive officer for PacifiCorp. "But at the same, time the agreement supports the long-term objectives of the resource agencies and other interest groups in the Hood River Basin."

If PacifiCorp had chosen to accept a new operating license, Powerdale's future economic viability was doubtful. A new license would have come with more-restrictive operating conditions, and the plant would have also required a considerable amount of new capital investment to keep it operating for the next 30 to 50 years.

The company determined that it made more sense for its customers to close the plant in 2010 and use its capital resources for other more cost-effective generating sources.

Along with the project owner, PacifiCorp, other parties to the settlement include, National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Water Resources Department, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, American Rivers and the Hood River Watershed Group.

The Powerdale Project now has a small diversion dam with an operating fish ladder. Water is conveyed via a three-mile-long flowline to the downstream powerhouse close by where the Hood River flows into the Columbia River.

A fish-counting station connected to the dam's fish ladder is owned by the Bonneville Power Administration and operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. The facility is critical to fish research that will help with salmon and steelhead recovery efforts in the basin. For this and other reasons, the agreement permits continued project operation until 2010, at which time the dam will be removed.

"We are pleased that the parties were able to reach agreement that meets everyone's interests," said David McAllister, ODFW habitat division administrator. "This agreement ensures restoration of the Hood River and protection of riparian habitat for fish and wildlife."

The fish ladder, which was installed when the dam was built, continues to allow the sorting of fish at the station as well as passage of anadromous fish into the upper Hood River Basin.

PacifiCorp will not be required to install new fish screens for operations through 2010. However, all other operating measures that would have been required in a new license will be in effect until the project is decommissioned. Further, the project will be closed each year between April 15 and June 30 to ensure protection of downstream-migrating juvenile fish.

"This agreement demonstrates that we can work together and do what is right for rivers and the fish, wildlife, and people who depend on them. We commend PacifiCorp for its leadership. The Hood River will be healthier thanks to the improved flows and fish passage," said Brett Swift of American Rivers.

The overall settlement also provides that PacifiCorp will transfer to an agreed-upon public entity the 465 acres of land associated with the hydroelectric project, thereby protecting the natural character of the Hood River Basin as it approaches the Columbia River. PacifiCorp will also provide more than $150,000 in a trust fund to ensure future maintenance of these lands. The historic powerhouse will remain in place, but the tower with the surge tank will be removed.

The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, which is a co-manager of the fisheries resources in the Hood River Basin, also noted that the settlement reaffirms their right under the Treaty of 1855 to fish in the basin.

"Fishing is a way of life for our people," said Tribal Council Chairman, Garland Brunoe. "The removal of this dam is a good step toward the recovery of the fishery, so that this fundamental part of our culture will not be lost to future generations."

Powerdale was first put into service in 1923 and has been operated for the customers of PacifiCorp ever since.

PacifiCorp serves 1.5 million customers in six western states as Pacific Power and Utah Power. The company operates an 8,200-megawatt power system consisting of hydro, thermal, wind and geothermal generation.

PacifiCorp also has reached a separate settlement with licensing parties for its Condit Hydroelectric Project on the White Salmon River across the Columbia River from Hood River in Washington State. Through that settlement, PacifiCorp has agreed to remove Condit Dam in the year 2006.

 

For further information please contact:

Dave Kvamme, PacifiCorp – 503-813-7279
Keith Kirkendall, National Marine Fisheries Service - 503-230-5431.
Anne Pressentin, OR Department of Fish and Wildlife – 503-872-5264 ext. 5356
Richard D. Bailey, OR Water Resources Department – 503-378-8455 ext. 256
Michael Llewelyn, OR Department of Environmental Quality – 503-229-5324
Cynthia Starke, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs – 541-382-3011
Brett Swift, American Rivers – 503-827-8648
Amy Souers, American Rivers – 206-213-0330 x19
Chuck Gehling, Hood River Watershed Group – 541-296-6866