By Dean Brickley
A Utah man’s option has expired to buy the idled Jim Boyd Hydroelectric Porject near Hermiston.
The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners discussed the project Tuesday, but took no action, said county counsel Doug Olsen.
“The option has been allowed to expire,” he said. “The potential purchasers did not want to extend it and the county did not take any formal action to extend it.”
Olson said commissioners really haven’t determined what to do next.
“The county will wait and see what might develop,” Olsen said. “But they will keep trying to move forward to get it disposed of.”
The old power plant is part of 18.75 acres the county owns east of Quick Road and south of the Umatilla River. The property includes an easement for a diversion ditch on teh river near Minnehaha Road to the power plant. Olsen said the property is zoned for farm use.
The county had hoped to sell the project and property to Jim Williams of Utah, who approached the county in May 2009. Olsen said Williams has a history of reestablishing distressed hydro plants.
Williams signed an option to buy the property for $66, 679. The county values the project at $300,000 including the real property and improvements. Williams’ option expired at the end of September.
In the abbreviated 2010 session of the Oregon legislature, state Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, shepherded throug House Bill 3602. It provided Umatilla County the ability to transfer the diversion and power plant to a new owner.
The later Jim Boyd developed the project. The diversion is on the Umatilla River just north of Minnehaha Road, southwest of Hermiston. The four-turbine powerhouse is south of West Highland Avenue, east of Quick Road. The two are connected by a canal beside the river.
Olsen said Umatilla County has owned the project twice in the past decade. The county first acquired it for delinquent property taxes in 1999.
The county almost immediately sold the project to Dennis Logan, who was Boyd’s business partner. Logan sold power to Pacific power on a contract, Olsen said, but the utility bought out the contract in 2003.
Olsen said Logan failed to pay the property taxes, and the county again foreclosed, taking ownership in 2009. When the county foreclosed, state law required the state to terminate the water license. The project hasn’t operated since.
Olsen said Jenson’s legislation paved the way for the project license to remain alive.
“We needed this legislation to ovecome that automatic termination,” he said.
In April 2009, Olsen said, the county tried to seel the hydro project at auction, but there were no bidders.
Jenson’s bill ensured that the county could transfer what were expired rights on teh facility and would allow new owners to refurbish and eventually re-open it.