By Doug Irving
Portland General Electric’s plans to scuttle its Bull Run bydroelectric plant have snagged on Marmot Dam, officials announced Wednesday.
The dam channels much of the Sandy River into Roslyn Lake and through the plant. For almost a century, Marmot has gathered a wall of silt and rubble, which PGE worries will scour fish spawning grounds if the dam is torn down and the debris released.
The company had expected to apply next month for the permits it needs to shut down the plant. Instead, it will hold onto the permit application until it can untangle the environmental and practical problems surrounding the dam’s removal.
The delay could grant a reprieve to Roslyn Lake, a sanctuary for fishermen and picnickers that could dry up without the dam.
“If we’re going to have something that we all agree on, that road goes through Marmot Dam,” said Tom Sullivan, resentative of the project’s lead engineering team.
PGE announced its plans at a meeting Wednesday of state and federal wildlife agencies, forestry officials and local residents. The decision came after the company received dozens of questions and concerns about its proposal.
The dam shutdown probably will cost between about $5 million and $14 million. Most of that uncertainty comes from Marmot Dam. Digging out some of the sediment wall could cost five times as much as the “blow and go” option of tearing down the dam.
But officials aren’t sure now long it would take to excavate the stacked-up debris or how they’d do it. And they’re not sure they want to uproot Marmot Dam. A fish ladder at the dam is used to stop hatchery fish from moving upstream where wild salmon and steelhead spawn. If the ladder disappears, then hatchery fish probably would no longer be released in the river and cut fishing opportunities.
PGE is considering leaving the dam in place: “A cement waterfall in the river with a fish ladder,” said John Esler, project manager in the company’s hydropower licensing division.
By slowing down its application, PGE hopes to smooth over any controversies that would hinder the project later, said Julie Keil, PGE’s director of hydropower licensing. It still expects the Bull Run plant to produce its last watt within five years.
But timing is everything, Keil said, and the delay could keep the dam online and replenishing Roslyn Lake for another year. The lake can count on Sandy River water through next summer and possibly through 2002.
May 18, 2000