Group suing Portland General Electric over operation of its Pelton Round Butte hydropower project

Environmental watchdog organization Deschutes River Alliance has filed a citizen suit against Portland General Electric, claiming the operation of the utility’s hydroelectric plants on the Deschutes River are in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The suit targets PGE’s 366.8-MW Pelton Round Butte project, which is a cascade of three generating sites, including the:

  • 247-MW Round Butte, which is the furthest upstream and impounds Lake Billy Chinook;
  • 100.8-MW Pelton, located seven miles downstream from Round Butte Dam; and
  • 18.9-MW Reregulating, 2.5 miles downstream from Pelton.

PGE and the project’s co-owner, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, built a $108 million fish collection facility and an underwater, temperature-regulating tower in 2009 with the goal of improving fish passage through Pelton Round Butte.

However, documents filed by DRA last week with the U.S. District Court in Oregon say the utility has violated standards established by the Clean Water Act regarding dissolved oxygen levels, temperature and other water quality stipulations.

DRA is calling for PGE to stop operating Pelton Round Butte in ways it the group claims violate the Clean Water Act, while also asking the utility to provide it with the same reports it gives to the government. The lawsuit also demands that PGE pay for any environmental restoration efforts caused as a result of its alleged violations.

PGE said in a response this week that the effort to restore runs for steelhead and salmon is an ongoing and long-term one, though initial results seemed positive, according to a feature on the project in the September 2012 issue of Hydro Review magazine.

The company also said it believes it has been operating in compliance with environmental laws, saying it had not been warned of violations by any agencies.


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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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