EPUD hopes hydroelectric project can begin soon
By Jon Stinnett
Cottage Grove Sentinel
Economic woes have delayed a project that should eventually find hydroelectric turbines pumping at Dorena Dam.
Emerald People’s Utility District, in partnership with Idaho-based Symbiotics, LLC, received final permits to build a hydroelectric power plant inside the dam last November. Issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the permits specify that work is to begin within two years, or by November, 2010. The deadline is one of a pair that have EPUD concerned about the project, which will power about 1200 homes locally upon completion.
"The main issue is how to finance it,” Pamela Hewitt, EPUD Power Resources Manager, said of the $15-plus million project. "The plan was to issue project debt, but banks aren’t lending right now because of the economy.”
Hewitt said another problem involves the high cost of power in the early stages of a hydroelectric project, power EPUD would hope to sell to mitigate its construction costs. Construction costs have also not fallen despite the economy’s struggles.
"It’s a combination of difficulty obtaining funds and the drop in the secondary power market,” Hewitt said.
One solution involves federal stimulus money, of which the project could garner about $2 million. However, the money is only available to private corporations, which means EPUD would have to purchase the hydroelectric plant from a private investor. Such an investor has yet to step forward.
"Somebody’s got money somewhere,” Hewitt said. "I think the project would have to be pretty attractive in terms of stimulus and grant money, as well as state tax incentives. It should look good to an investor looking for a five to six-year involvement, but they’re not knocking our door down right now.”
Another deadline means that any project that receives federal stimulus money would have to see construction begin in 2010 and end in 2014.
Hewitt said that ground would have to be broken on the project by next November to satisfy FERC regulations, and that six percent of the project should be completed to garner stimulus funds. The Emerald People’s Utility District hoped to build the plant to add to its energy portfolio; currently EPUD buys most of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration. A similar project at Fall Creek Dam has encountered similar financial difficulties.