Project Freedom, the expansion of a 5 megawatt fishway project at The Dalles Dam, faces objections from two important parties of interest and project owner Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District is working with a team of consultants to come up with arguments refuting their claims.
Both Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have submitted objections to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over the 5 megawatt addition to the PUD’s power generation plant on The Dalles Dam’s fishway, Kurt Conger, the PUD’s supply and transmission manager, told the PUD board of directors May 27.
“The stakeholder process concluded in early May,” Conger said.
Bonneville submitted opposing comments claiming the project will take water away from Tier 1 energy needs. The quasi-governmental agency markets power produced by the Columbia River hydropower system.
The Corps opposition was based on the idea that the fishway generation plant already meets biological opinion standards.
It also claims the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t have authority to grant the license expansion. The commission granted the original license for the first 5 megawatt fishway project, which began operation in the 1990s. The PUD is seeking to amend that license to include a second plant, doubling the generation capacity.
Federal fish and wildlife comments suggested the project is “largely beneficial to fish passage,” Conger told the board. Washington State authorities agree, he added.
“We are continuing to reach out to stakeholders, in particular the regional tribes,” Conger said.
At the same time, the PUD is working with consultants to develop white papers on issues including who has jurisdiction to issue the license and the project’s fish benefit.
The existing small hydro project on the fishway has been shown by studies to improve conditions for migratory fish.
“The parties, at this point, haven’t had further consultation,” said Dwight Langer, PUD general manager, noting that the utility has good relationships with both Bonneville and the Corps. “We’re at the point where the parties have agreed to disagree.”
He said the white papers will help prepare the PUD team for further consultation and meetings with the two organizations.
“This is the best consulting team I’ve ever seen,” Langer said. “It’s a fine group of experts: engineers, environmentalists, environmental engineers and attorneys. It’s a very impressive team to get our collective thoughts together as to how to best present our case and needs to the Corps and BPA.
“It’s delicate,” he added. “Getting understanding and support from all parties is important to us. That’s what we are going to be working toward.”
The PUD has long had a strategy of developing its own power generation facilities. New sources of energy are particularly important now that demand for the resource has begun to outstrip supply from the federal dam system.
In addition to the existing The Dalles small hydro plant, the PUD has a second facility at McNary Dam, which it shares with Klickitat County PUD. It also continues to explore power generation opportunities in partnership with other Pacific Northwest organizations.