Eugene Water & Electric Board announces US$100 million rehab at 114-MW Carmen-Smith hydro project

The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) announced beginning March 27, and continuing for the next five years, it will begin a US$100 million rehabilitation and modernization project at its 114-MW Carmen-Smith hydroelectric facility along the upper McKenzie River, about 70 miles east of Eugene, Ore.

EWEB said it will make upgrades to the facility’s generators as well as lessen environmental impacts at its Carmen-Smith powerhouse and facilitate fish passage.

The Carmen-Smith hydropower project operates as a peaking and load-following facility, using water stored in the three project reservoirs that includes the Trail Bridge development that operates as a re-regulating facility, but will cease power generation.

The Carmen Diversion Reservoir, filled by the McKenzie River flowing from its headwaters at Clear Lake is used to divert water into a tunnel leading to Smith Reservoir. From Smith Reservoir, water is routed through a second tunnel to the Carmen powerhouse, which discharges into Trail Bridge Reservoir and then flows back into the McKenzie River below Trail Bridge Dam.

Fish passage will be accomplished by an alternative method, using a “trap and haul” facility and spillway fish passage. EWEB says it will no longer generate electricity at the Trail Bridge powerhouse, giving up a bit of energy production in exchange for more cost-effective, less-intrusive fish passage. Altogether these revisions should reduce capital investments by about $80 million and long-term operating costs by $1 million annually.

Carmen-Smith was completed in 1963 and the original Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) operating license expired in 2008. EWEB submitted a relicensing application to FERC in 2008 after a collaborative agreement was reached with 16 state and federal agencies, Indian tribes and environmental and recreation groups to make enhancements and other improvements, according to EWEB.

In July 2015, EWEB requested a six-month delay in the issuance of a new license, and FERC granted the delay in August.

According to EWEB, it, along with the original settlement parties, were able to successfully request a pause in the federal license review and go back to the table to revise the agreement. EWEB commissioners on Nov. 1, 2016, voted unanimously to adopt the new agreement and submit it to FERC for review.

EWEB lists three hydropower facilities from which it generates hydropower: The Carmen-Smith Project, which is also EWEB’s largest utility-owned power source; 15.9-MW Leaburg; and 9-MW Walterville.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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