PacifiCorp to draw down hydropower reservoirs to ease Interior water shortage

In response to drought in the U.S. West, utility PacifiCorp has agreed to release flows from its hydroelectric project reservoirs on the Klamath River as needed to aid the Bureau of Reclamation’s responsibilities for endangered fish, tribal obligations and irrigation downstream.

Reclamation said Aug. 8 that PacifiCorp agreed to release up to 20,000 acre-feet of water from its reservoirs as needed to meet required releases from its 18-MW Iron Gate hydro development pursuant to the 2013 biological opinion for Reclamation’s own seven-dam Klamath Project. The releases are to ensure Reclamation’s Upper Klamath Lake remains above specified minimum elevations.

After the irrigation season has concluded, Reclamation and PacifiCorp are to meet and discuss the timing of returning water to the hydroelectric reservoirs of PacifiCorp’s 161.338-MW Klamath hydroelectric project (No. 2082).

Although Reclamation will continue to restrict Klamath Project irrigation water supplies through certain project facilities, the plan will help the agency by extending the Klamath Project’s available water supplies from Upper Klamath Lake to help close the irrigation season. It will also help Reclamation support culturally significant tribal trust responsibilities.

“Reclamation applauds PacifiCorp’s willingness to consider and agree to a proposal that will assist in alleviating impacts being felt by both Klamath Project water users and natural resources as a result of the 2014 drought,” Reclamation Mid-Pacific Deputy Regional Director Jason Phillips said. “…This proposal is an opportunity to positively contribute to the health of federally listed fish species in Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River, supports tribal interests and will prove beneficial to project irrigators for the 2014 water year during these critical drought conditions.”

Reclamation’s parent agency, the Department of Interior, released an environmental impact statement in April recommending removal of PacifiCorp’s Klamath hydroelectric project to restore Klamath River fisheries and the watershed. The proposal would remove PacifiCorp’s 90.388-MW J.C. Boyle, 20-MW Copco 1, 27-MW Copco 2 and 18-MW Iron Gate hydro developments.

Other components of PacifiCorp’s project are the 3.2-MW East Side and 600-kW West Side developments, which PacifiCorp has proposed to decommission voluntarily, the 2.2-MW Fall Creek development on a Klamath tributary, and the non-powered Keno Dam, which has been proposed for Reclamation takeover.

The hydro project now awaits congressional action before the Interior secretary can make a determination whether removal of the project is in the public interest.

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