Jordanelle: Developing New Hydro At an Existing Dam

The story of development of the 12-MW Jordanelle hydro plant provides a good example of a non-federal organization developing new, low-impact hydro at an existing federal dam.

By David O. Pitcher and Reed R. Murray

The challenge and opportunity of developing hydropower as a clean, renewable energy source has a long history in Utah and is directly associated with many of the state’s water supply and conveyance facilities. This is especially true at or near the site of Jordanelle Dam.

In July 2005, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved construction of a hydroelectric generating facility at Jordanelle Dam, owned by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The original construction of the dam, completed in 1993, incorporated the potential to produce power. However, Interior decided to delay power development at this dam until a non-federal entity could privately finance the facility. Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCD) and Heber Light & Power jointly competed against other proposing entities to develop power at the site under an arrangement called a “Lease of Power Privilege.” The resulting project, the 12.6-MW Jordanelle Dam Hydroelectric Project, began operating in July 2008 and is an excellent example of a federal/non-federal arrangement to develop new hydropower.

Background on Jordanelle

From early in Utah’s history, hydropower has represented an important source of power for cities, the early mining industry, and rural communities. In 1909, the cities of Heber, Midway, and Charleston in Heber Valley joined to form a public energy services company, Heber Light & Power, to provide electric power. The company immediately commenced construction of a 700-kW hydro plant. This plant received water from an irrigation canal, which diverted water from the Provo River about 2 miles above the plant. The water flowed through two 140-foot-long penstocks and turned two 350-kW turbine-generator units. The units were upgraded to 450 kW in the 1950s, and the plant served the valley communities well until it was decommissioned in 1976.

The more recent construction of the Jordanelle hydro project is related to a large, complex water supply project in Utah. The Colorado River provides critical water to seven states. In 1956, Reclamation began developing the federally-owned Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP). CRSP is a series of reservoirs on the Colorado River, developed to divert water for irrigation, municipal, and industrial use. CRSP consists of four mainstem projects and 11 participating projects that are not on the Colorado River but are within the Colorado River Basin. The Central Utah Project (CUP), which includes Jordanelle Dam, is one of those participating projects.

Located in central Utah, the CUP is the largest water resource development undertaken in the state. The project provides Utah with the opportunity to use a portion of its allotment from the Colorado River, by means of a transbasin water diversion.

In 1964, the state of Utah organized the CUWCD to represent the people within the CUP project area as the project sponsor and operator of the CUP facilities. As is the case with Reclamation projects, the project sponsor repays the CUP reimbursable costs. In addition, with the enactment of the CUPCA, the CUWCD also pays 35 percent of the project’s development as a local cost share and then repays the remaining reimbursable portion of the 65 percent federal share.

In October 1992, Public Law 102-575, of which Titles II through VI comprise the Central Utah Project Completion Act (CUPCA), reauthorized final construction of the CUP. Under the CUPCA, Congress provided direction for completing the CUP with certain modifications to Reclamation’s development plan. Section 208 of the CUPCA provides that the CUP power facilities be developed and operated in accordance with the CRSP Act and states: “Use of Central Utah Project water diverted out of the Colorado River Basin for power purposes shall only be incidental to the delivery of water for other authorized project purposes.”

Jordanelle Dam is built

Jordanelle Dam and Reservoir, on the Provo River immediately upstream of the original hydro plant diversion, is a key feature of the CUP. Construction of the dam began in June 1987 and was complete in April 1993. Filling of the reservoir was completed in 1996. The dam is 300 feet high with an active reservoir capacity of 314,000 acre-feet. It provides annual water supply of 15,000 acre-feet for irrigation and 92,400 acre-feet for municipal and industrial purposes.

The turbine spiral cases and inlet penstocks for the 12.6-MW Jordanelle project were grouted in place in September 2007. The project entered service on July 1, 2008.
Click here to enlarge image

Authorization of the CUP in 1956 included federal hydropower development. As a result, the outlet works of Jordanelle Dam were designed and constructed in anticipation of hydropower being added at a future date.

Determining power jurisdiction

By the late 1980s, the U.S. government had decided to allow non-federal development of hydropower at Reclamation facilities. During this period, a disagreement arose between the departments of Energy and Interior about the licensing process for hydro development at Reclamation facilities. The position of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was that the FERC process for licensing hydropower facilities was applicable to Reclamation facilities. However, Interior held the position that FERC jurisdiction is withdrawn when Congress specifically authorizes power development on a Reclamation project.

The issue was eventually resolved through a memorandum of understanding. This understanding authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to grant a lease of power privilege to non-federal entities for the development of hydro plants. The secretary may authorize development of hydropower at Reclamation projects using federal appropriations, non-federally under a lease of power privilege, or through a partnership or other contractual arrangement using contributed funds.

Because no federal appropriations were made available for hydropower development at Jordanelle, Interior decided to develop power at the dam under a power privilege lease.

Lease of power privilege is granted

A lease of power privilege is a contractual right given to a non-federal entity to use a Reclamation facility for electric power generation, as long as development of the generation is consistent with Reclamation’s initial project purposes. A lease is an alternative to federal power development and is used where Reclamation has authority to develop power on any or all features of a federal project. The Town Sites and Power Development Act of 1906 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to lease surplus power or power privileges. The Reclamation Project Act of 1939 extended the contract term to a maximum of 40 years for the sale of power or lease of power privileges. In addition, this act gave preference to municipalities and other public corporations or agencies and also to cooperatives and other non-profit organizations financed in whole or in part by loans made pursuant to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 and any amendments thereof.

The 12.6-MW Jordanelle Dam Hydroelectric Project was built at an existing dam owned by the Bureau of Reclamation. Construction of the hydro plant began in 1996 and was completed in 2008.
Click here to enlarge image

In October 1998, the CUWCD approached Interior with a request to develop hydropower at Jordanelle Dam, under a lease of power privilege. Even though the CUWCD already operated Jordanelle Dam, Interior determined that competitive proposals were required as a public process. In July 1999, Interior issued a request for proposals for power development at Jordanelle. The request for proposals required that all responding developers design the hydropower plant to be incidental to other CUP project purposes and operations.

Many interested parties communicated with Interior and requested copies of documents, plans, and specifications relating to Jordanelle Dam. Owing to the interest displayed, Interior hosted a formal site visit at the potential hydropower site in late September 1999.

In October 1999, FERC concurred that it was within Interior’s authority to issue a lease of power privilege at Jordanelle Dam.

CUWCD and Heber Light & Power submit development proposal

In 1999, the CUWCD contracted with CH2M HILL of Englewood, Colo., for engineering services — including preliminary evaluation and design services — so it could complete a proposal to develop the Jordanelle project. In January 2000, a joint partnership of the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power submitted its proposal to develop hydro at Jordanelle Dam. Interior received a second proposal from Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.

Interior’s selection process included a review and evaluation by an independent, multi-agency technical team. Having the proposals reviewed and evaluated by individuals from the power community not associated with the CUP provided credibility to the selection process. The technical team included power industry experts from the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and Reclamation. The team developed a ranking and prioritization system, based on the guidelines and criteria outlined in the original request for proposals. Interior’s Solicitors Office also was involved in the early stages of the review and evaluation process, to ensure federal law and policy was being followed.

On August 16, 2000, Interior announced that the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power had been selected as the potential lessee and established a five-year period for a lease of power to be negotiated and executed.


Once Interior made the selection, the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power began preparations for formal negotiations. Public negotiations began on November 17, 2000, and were attended by interested parties, including local power developers, WAPA, Colorado River Energy Distributors, and Reclamation.

Under an agreement between the departments of Energy and Interior, whenever power generation is developed at a Reclamation facility, WAPA has the first right to market that power. The CUWCD, Heber Light & Power, Interior, and WAPA held several meetings to discuss the potential for marketing Jordanelle power. The question of who would market the power was integral to the development of the project, in that it affected how the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power would finance the project and whether or not the CUWCD could rely on non-taxable bonds for project costs.

WAPA subsequently declined the offer to market the power from Jordanelle. With this critical decision made, the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power developed a marketing strategy and clarified their partnership arrangement: the CUWCD would own and operate the hydropower generating plant, and Heber Light & Power would be responsible for transmission and marketing of the power.

In late June 2005, the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power entered into a power sales agreement. Because the power plant would be run-of-the-river, revenue from the power sales would be variable. A detailed annual financial model, using the estimated water supply, was effective in helping show the financial feasibility of the project and estimating the relative financial obligations and revenue sharing between the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power. As stated above, the CUWCD would finance, construct, own, operate, and maintain the generation facilities, and Heber Light & Power would purchase all power generated.

The 40-year lease established payments to Interior, at a fixed rate with an annual increase of 3 percent, on the gross power generated at the site. The lease agreement also covered the distribution of revenues from the project, including lease payments to Interior; annual facility operation and maintenance; recovery of costs and debt payments associated with the facility; reserve accounts; and any additional power revenues received by the lessee.

Even after the final negotiations between the CUWCD, Heber Light & Power, and Interior, the groups continued to work on remaining issues such as water rights verification, insurance, lease rate, operations and maintenance, engineering feasibility, and financial feasibility.

Environmental considerations and agreements

The stream and area below the dam are critical to the success of the CUP. Losses of wetlands caused by construction of Jordanelle Dam were partially mitigated through the development of wetlands downstream. Also, previous Reclamation projects had turned the Provo River below the dam into a lifeless channel with dikes to avoid flooding. Dike removal, stream restoration, and allowing the river to flow though its natural water course — all part of the CUPCA — have restored the Provo River. The project developers agreed to minimum stream flows below the dam as part of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for the dam and the biological opinion on the Provo River. Also, an endangered fish species, the June sucker, spawns in the Provo River.

These issues created a great amount of focus on environmental stewardship in relationship to development of the hydro project. In March 2004, the process for developing an environmental assessment (EA) began. The EA included the generation of power at Jordanelle and its transmission facilities into the Heber Valley. Interior issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in early July 2005.

With the environmental studies completed and the sales agreement in place, the partnership of the CUWCD and Heber Light & Power entered into the lease of power contract with Interior in July 2005.

Project design, financing

Before 2005, CH2M HILL refined its preliminary design and the CUWCD pre-qualified firms to supply generating equipment. Final design of the turbine-generator equipment and appurtenant equipment began immediately after the agreements were signed. In October 2005, the project developers issued bidding documents seeking two identical turbines, hydraulic power and control units, generators, turbine inlet valves, a plant control system, and spare parts and special installation services. The CUWCD awarded the $4.9 million contract to VA Tech Hydro Canada Inc. In December 2005, after Interior’s approval, CUWCD authorized VA Tech to proceed with manufacture of the equipment.

VA Tech manufactured the turbines and runners in France. The hydraulic capacity of the horizontal Francis-type turbines is 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) each under a net head of 270 feet. They are rated at 360 revolutions per minute (rpm) and 8,651 horsepower. The installed generating capacity is 12.6 MW, and the estimated annual energy production is 39,000 megawatt-hours (MWh).

Manufactured by Ideal Electric in Mansfield, Ohio, the twin generators each operate at 12.47 kilovolts (kV), and are rated for 7,222 kilovolt-amperes (kVA). D2FC Energy Valves in France manufactured the turbine inlet valves. North American Hydro manufactured the hydraulic control system, and Phoenix Power Control, Inc., of Monroe, Wash., manufactured the plant control system.

The sizes and arrangement of the equipment were confirmed through the equipment submittal process, and final design work on the power plant proceeded through the first six months of 2006. A design team consisting of engineering and operation staff of the CUWCD, design review staff from Interior, and Heber Light & Power staff worked closely with CH2M HILL to prepare final details of the facility. Additional geotechnical investigations confirmed the depth of bedrock for the design of the foundation and the cutoff wall from the adjacent Provo River. The final design and bidding documents included the following elements:

    — Construction of a secant pile wall dewatering cutoff;
    — Construction of a cast-in-place reinforced concrete powerhouse, about 105 feet by 55 feet;
    — Construction of a welded steel penstock consisting of about 150 feet of 84-inch pipe;
    — Installation of owner-furnished main power transformer and turbine-generator equipment; and
    — Testing and start up of the completed facility.


The CUWCD pre-qualified six contractors and, in August 2006, received bids from four, ranging from $10 million to $11.8 million. The engineer’s estimate for the project was $8 million. CUWCD staff evaluated the increased cost of construction against the estimated project revenue and recommended to its board of trustees that the bids were responsive and responsible and that the project would still be financially successful. After Interior gave approval to award the construction contract, CUWCD awarded the $10 million contract to W.W. Clyde & Company of Springville, Utah, with a project completion date of April 30, 2008.

A key to the CUWCD’s success with its construction program has been its emphasis on partnering. The CUWCD hosted a partnering workshop shortly after the contract was awarded, with representatives of the CUWCD, Heber Light & Power, W.W. Clyde and its subcontractors, and Interior. This workshop allowed the participants to meet the project partners and discuss the project and schedule.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held September 15, 2006, at the future site of the hydro plant. The ceremony included many community leaders from the Heber Valley, as well as the project participants.

The construction project encountered difficult winter weather construction issues and required close coordination to install the pre-purchased equipment in a precise manner. Construction changes — which were minimal — were successfully negotiated among the project’s partners, and the project schedule was altered to a completion date of July 1, 2008. The month of June 2008 required all of the project partners’ dedicated efforts for the successful start up and commissioning of the facilities. The equipment and facilities commenced commercial operations July 1, 2008, and have been successfully producing clean, reliable energy since that date. Utah’s Governor, as well as numerous Congressional, state, and federal representatives, attended the formal dedication for the project on August 26, 2008.

Dave Pitcher is the chief engineer at Central Utah Water Conservancy District, owner of the 12-MW Jordanelle project. Reed Murray is program director, Central Utah Project, for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Technical Information

Jordanelle Dam Hydroelectric Project

General Information

Location: On the Provo River in central Utah, 35 miles northwest of Provo, Utah
Owner: Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Orem, Utah
Capacity: 12.6 MW
Head: 270 feet
Flow: 600 cubic feet per second
Annual Generation: 39,000 megawatt-hours
Construction Cost: $21.5 million
On-Line Date: July 2008


Turbines (2)
Horizontal shaft, Francis-type
6.5 MW
8,700 horsepower
360 revolutions per minute
Manufactured by VA TECH Hydro Canada, Inc.
Generators (2)
7,222 kilovolt amperes (kVA)
0.90 power factor
12.47 kilovolts (kV), three phase
60 Hertz
Manufactured by Hyundai Ideal Electric Co.


Zoned earthfill
Maximum height above stream bed 299 feet
3,700 feet long
Earth and concrete-lined spillway channel with fuse plug
3,300 acres
314,000 acre-feet of active storage
Penstocks Reinforced concrete-encased welded steel
84-inch diameter, bifurcates into two 66-inch diameter
150 feet long
Cast-in-place reinforced concrete
105 feet long and 55 feet wide


12.47 kV generation to 12.47-kV main plant transformer
3 miles of 12.47 kV transmission line to 12.47/46.0 kV transformer at substation


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