The Deschutes Valley Water District (DVWD) has reached a Settlement Agreement (Agreement) with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited concerning fish passage at the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project. DVWD is now initiating three-stage consultation in preparation for filing a license amendment.
The Agreement was sought by federal, state, and non-governmental organizations who are working to reestablish populations of anadromous fish in the upper Deschutes Basin, including Middle-Columbia Steelhead which are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Bull trout, also listed as Threatened under the ESA, are also present in the area. This reintroduction effort began in 2007 following the relicensing of the downstream Pelton Round Butte Project, owned by Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. In agreeing to provide fish passage DVWD sought assurances that its essential project operations would remain unchanged for the balance of the current license term through 2032 and that it would be able seek outside resources to help pay for the new facilities.
Under the terms of the Agreement, the DVWD will have two years to secure outside funding and file for a license amendment from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Once approved, DVWD will:
- Build a fish ladder that will operate over a 3 foot range of pool elevations
- Raise the authorized pool elevation by 6 feet, using one or more inflatable control weirs to help shape downstream flows
- Implement a water credit accounting system known as the Bypass Flow Accrual Account (BFAA) that will provide for additional water, when needed, to the bypass reach to assist upstream fish passage and/or to assist downstream fish passage
- Carry out a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Plan for assessing the performance of the fish passage facilities against Performance Standards
- Follow a two-tiered adaptive management framework for reviewing M&E results and implementing additional measures, if needed.
In addition to securing ESA coverage for its facilities and operations for the duration of its current license term, the agreement allows DVWD to protect its essential operations and gain some additional generation benefits from the pool raise.