EWEB approves revised agreement for relicensing of 114-MW Carmen-Smith hydroelectric project

The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) commissioners have approved a resolution intended to cut the cost of renewing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating license for its 114-MW Carmen-Smith hydroelectric project.

The Register-Guard reported this information Nov. 2.

Resolution 1629, available here, proposes a 40-year license term (instead of 50 years) and includes an agreement to implement some high-impact items (recreation improvements, fish passage and aquatic habitat improvements) ahead of license issuance.

One important point was that “the proposed settlement agreement establishes fish passage using an adaptive management approach rather than facilities that are constructed to meet specific criteria established by the Federal Agencies.” This approach will require EWEB to design, construct and operate fish passage facilities in consultation with and approval by the federal fish agencies, USDA Forest Service and FERC. If EWEB is unable to show that those facilities are operating in a manner that meets the fish passage standards required in the settlement agreement, EWEB may be required to modify the passage facilities or operations to improve fish passage. IF after 10 years EWEB cannot meet the establish fish passage requirements, EWEB must file a plan with FERC to alter the fish passage, which may include building a fish ladder and screen systems or other passage techniques or even, potentially, dam removal and decommissioning.

This approach is anticipated to save about $80 million in capital costs by “swapping the construction of costly fish passage improvements at the Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project, located 71 miles east of Eugene along the upper McKenzie River, for less expensive alternatives,” Register-Guard says.

Carmen-Smith was completed in 1963 and the original 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.

In 2008, EWEB estimated it would spend $135 million on enhancements and mitigation measures, but this price tag climbed to about $180 million today. Per its website, “Current and predicted future economic conditions in the electricity market have shifted significantly since 2008, making the project potentially uneconomical during the 50-year life of a new license. As a result, EWEB has embarked on an effort to create a different, less-costly outcome for Carmen-Smith.”

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

EWEB owns 247.5 MW of power generation capacity, with 189 MW of that coming from its four hydropower facilities.

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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