By David McMechan
County officials are confident that an agreement is imminent that will end their concerns regarding a possible loss of property tax revenue from the Pelton-Round Butte hydroelectric facilities.
The agreement will be between the county, Portland General Electric, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Under the Pelton-Round Butte relicensing agreement, PGE and the tribes will share ownership and operation of the hydro project.
Historically, PGE has owned and operated the dam facilities, and annually has paid the tribes a percentage of revenue. The dams, and lakes Billy Chinook and Pelton, are located partly on tribal property.
PGE’s original 50-year license for operating the facilities came up for renewal in recent years, prompting a competition between the tribes and PGE for the relicense. Eventually, PGE and the tribes reached an agreement whereby the tribes share ownership and revenue directly with PGE.
A possible consequence of this arrangement was a substantial loss of property tax revenue to the county, as well as other local districts, including Mountain View Hospital, Central Oregon Community College, and the Jefferson County Library District.
The county took the lead in negotiating with PGE and the tribes toward maintenance of the tax base.
The negotiation process has taken several months, but an agreement seems to be close at hand, said Janet Brown, Jefferson County commissioner.
The negotiations at times have been less than amicable, such as earlier this year when the county was forced to object to the PGE-tribal ownership agreement during a hearing before the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
The county has taken the possible consequence of the dam co-ownership agreement very seriously, and for obvious reason:
For years, PGE has been the single largest property taxpayer in Jefferson County, due to its ownership of the hydro facilities, which have an assessed value of nearly $180 million.
For tile tax year 1999-2000, PGE paid a property tax on Pelton-Round Butte of $2,123,874, or more than 16 percent of the total county property tax.
Among Oregon counties, Jefferson is the most reliant on utilities for property tax revenue.
November 8, 2000