EWEB receives new FERC operating license for 91.995-MW Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric

The Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) has received a new 40-year operating license for its 91.995-MW Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project, on the McKenzie and Smith rivers in Oregon.

EWEB filed an application for a new license in November 2006. The original license was effective in December 1958 and expired in November 2008. In the years after the original license expired, EWEB operated the project under an annual license.

The Carmen-Smith Project consists of two developments – Carmen and Trail Bridge. The project stores water in three reservoirs: Carmen diversion (on the McKenzie River), Smith (on the Smith River), and Trail Bridge (at the confluence of the McKenzie and Smith rivers and receiving water from both). The project includes two powerhouses.

In July 2015, EWEB requested that FERC delay its decision on the license while it reanalyzed the economic viability of the project. A delay was granted, and in January 2016 EWEB filed a revised project economic analysis, indicating that proposed fish passage measures made the project uneconomical. EWEB requested that the Commission continue to delay issuing the new license while EWEB and the settlement parties developed new, cost-effective fish passage alternatives. Two additional requests to delay the licensing decision were subsequently granted.

In November 2016, EWEB filed an amended Settlement Agreement that includes installing a new trap-and-haul system at the project’s Trail Bridge Dam instead of a volitional fish ladder; providing fish access to the new trap-and-haul system by removing the existing tailrace barrier downstream of Trail Bridge Dam; and ceasing generation at the Trail Bridge power plant to pass fish downstream of Trail Bridge Dam through the existing spillway instead of screening the intake.

The Carmen powerhouse contains two Francis turbine-generating units, each with a nameplate capacity of 41.61 MW. The Trail Bridge powerhouse contains one Kaplan turbine-generating unit with an authorized capacity of 8.775 MW.

EWEB proposes to continue operating the project in a peaking mode, but with several changes to protect chinook salmon and bull trout and to increase operational flexibility. These changes include ceasing generation at Trail Bridge and only operating it for emergency, maintenance, and safety purposes once new fish passage facilities are installed; providing instream flow releases to the bypassed reaches; and modifying reservoir level regulation and ramping rates in the Smith bypassed reach, Trail Bridge reservoir, and the McKenzie River downstream of Trail Bridge dam.

In issuing the license, FERC says: “Although our analysis shows that the project as licensed herein would cost more to operate than our estimated cost of alternative power, it is the applicant who must decide whether to accept this license and any financial risk that entails.”

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