By Katy Nesbitt
The Central Oregon Irrigation District hopes to finalize a deal today that will allow it to build a hydroelectric generator on a canal near Juniper Ridge.
The nearly 11-acre property is located along side US Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond and is currently owned by the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department. The property is crossed by the Pilot Butte Canal and has been targeted by the irrigation district for the construction of a 5-megawatt hydroelectric plant for nearly three years.
Tuesday, the Oregon Parks & Recreation Commission voted to authorize OPRD Director Tim Wood to begin negotiations with the irrigation district.
Commissioner Brad Chalfant, a Bend resident who is also executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust, said the commission is enthusiastic about COID’s proposal.
"We’re very, very supportive of it,” Chalfant said.
Steve Johnson, manager of COID, said he will be meeting with Wood today to begin the negotiations.
Earlier this month, Bend area rancher Bob Borlen endorsed the project and estimated that it could provide enough electricity to supply 1,000 homes.
"As a farmer, we know we all have to work together to restore our river,” Borlen said. "Regardless of the price, it is a good project, and it meets the governor’s green energy goal. Irrigating our agricultural land adds value and livability to the area.”
The property was appraised at $20,000 last summer with the lack of access to adjoingin property and to US Highway 97 cited in explaining the low assessed value. Johnson said the purchase price would be negotiated when he meets with Wood today.
At a State Parks Commission meeting held in Enterprise Sept. 17, Johnson told the commissioners COID had budgeted for a purchase price between $50,000 and $125,000.
The irrigation district has secured $11.7 million in grant funding and incentives for the project. Additional costs are likely to be covered through the Oregon Department of Energy’s Small Energy Loan Program and a bond sale planned for Oct. 15.
Unlike large-scale hydroelectric generators, the Juniper Ridge project will not impound water behind a dam. Instead a portion of the canal flow will be sent through a 2.5-foot-diameter pipe containing power-generating turbines.
No winter stock runs are scheduled along the Pilot Butte Canal to allow for construction which is scheduled to begin Oct. 6.