PGE is voluntarily seeking input from affected residents
By Jason Chaney
Next week, local residents will have their first opportunity to weigh in on a proposed hydroelectric power plant on Bowman Dam.
Portland General Electric is hosting a public meeting at the Crook County Library on Tuesday afternoon to solicit public input on their plans for the facility.
The proposed plant would generate a maximum of six megawatts of electricity that would be distributed directly onto the grid. The capacity of the plant equates to about one fifth of the 30 megawatts of power consumed by Crook County.
"The meeting is an opportunity for people in the community and people from fish and wildlife to come and ask questions,” said PGE Director of Hydro Licensing Julie Keil.
She went on to point out that the meeting is a voluntary outreach.
"The meeting is not required,” Keil said. "At this stage, we are talking to folks, asking them about the proposal and what their concerns are going forward.”
In order for the hydroelectric power plant to become a reality, a quarter-mile portion of the river just below the dam will need a modified designation from Congress.
"It is still designated as Wild and Scenic,” Keil explained. "We have been working pretty diligently to get a proposal to modify the boundary (of the Wild and Scenic area).”
According to the Federal Power Act, no hydropower plant is permitted within the Wild Scenic boundary. The upper boundary currently runs across the center divider line of a portion of Hwy 27 that passes directly over the top of the dam, with the lower border several miles down river.
PGE has been in contact with several agencies while developing their proposal, including the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). For ODFW, their approval of the proposal will hinge on how much the hydropower facility impacts fish populations in the river, in particular, the fish spawning areas near the dam.
"The area downstream from the dam, just upstream from the gauging station is one of the highest concentration spawning areas for redband trout,” said ODFW Deschutes District Fish Biologist Brett Hodgson. "Even a quarter mile is going to have some impact on redband populations, particularly in spawning areas.”
In addition to the impact on redband trout, Hodgson pointed out that the area near the dam is a popular angling area, and the ODFW has concerns about any power plant activities that reduce angling activity.
Nonetheless, ODFW does not oppose the power plant.
"I don’t think it would be a problem,” Hodgson said. "We just want to make sure the project is properly evaluated.”
According to Keil, ODFW is not the only organization or individual to approve of the power plant proposal.
"I do think we have a wide range of support for the proposal,” she said.
As far as the viability of a power plant on the dam is concerned, Keil feels the chosen location is a perfect fit.
"The project itself is a no-brainer,” she said. "You have the infrastructure there, the transmission is there, and the water releases are predictable. The project will be designed to operate off of the irrigation releases already in place.”
Following the Tuesday meeting, Keil said future plans for PGE include the issuance of a preliminary application document for the plant, which, among other things, will require another public meeting.
At this time, no future timeframes for either a future meeting or plant construction have been determined.
Portland General Electric will hold a public meeting regarding their proposal to build a hydroelectric power plant on Bowman Dam at the Crook County Library on Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 12:30 p.m.