FERC rejects application for hydropower on McKenzie River


Citing deficiencies in a number of aspects, FERC has rejected the application (Project No. 13099-000) from Principal Power for hydropower production on Oregon's McKenzie River.In a letter issued on Feb 13, FERC rejected the application that included insufficient details on important issues such as construction activities, reservoirs, and transmission lines. The application, filed on Jan 15, had also failed to provide a detailed workplan or a map showing project locations. Commission regulations require an applicant to submit a complete description of each project including characteristics of the dams and reservoirs, size of penstocks, description of powerhouse and transmission lines, in addition to a detailed map of project locations and boundaries. The applicant had mentioned that the project would consist of eight or nine non-dam developments for a combined power output of 83MW but no details were provided. All in all, the application was very negligent.McKenzie River has long been an attractive site for whitewater recreation, sport fishing, hiking, driftboating, and other recreational activities.The proposed projects were located downstream of the existing Carmen-Smith hydroelectric project and just below the Wild and Scenic section of the McKenzie. The owner of the Carmen-Smith project has been working with agencies, nonprofits, paddlers, anglers and others to reach a settlement agreement for new license terms. One of the largest hurdles in this settlement is agreement on how to mitigate for salmon migration, and these new projects would have defeated any fishery improvements in this settlement long before it could even be signed.The new projects also raised questions regarding what is clean energy, and what are acceptable impacts for this river. While no dams were proposed, Principal Power was looking to build up to nine weirs. While they proposed no reservoirs, they did propose up to nine head ponds, as well as roads, transmission lines, penstocks and tunnels along a 34 mile section of the river. Just like dams, diversion weirs produce electricity by diverting water out of the river, which affects boating, the fishery, and the millions of dollars and man-hours spend so far on returning salmon to the upstream sections of the McKenzie. You can read an article from Oregon's Register-Guard here.