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Project leaders claim reduction of total dissolved gases from power plant would result in harm to fewer fish

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Local officials believe that putting a hydroelectric power plant on Bowman Dam will reduce the amount of total dissolved gases in Crooked River near the dam, and harm fewer fish.

Efforts to build a hydroelectric power plant on Bowman Dam continue, although the future of the project is bound by unresolved fish passage issues.

The City of Prineville, Crook County and Ochoco Irrigation District have teamed up to try and install a 3 megawatt power plant on Bowman Dam, securing a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

However, construction of a plant cannot move forward without accounting for fish passage during the process. Employing traditional options such as a fish ladder are too expensive to consider and would result in termination of the effort.

Project leaders are therefore pursuing a waiver that would enable them to move forward with a hydroelectric plant in exchange for other fish habitat improvements.

"In the law, there is a pathway to get a waiver that would allow ODFW to grant a license for approval for the project with a fish passage waiver," said City Manager Steve Forrester. "In order to get that waiver, we have to have mitigation for improvement upon the habitat of the river equal to or better than passage. We believe we have that in reducing the total dissolved gasses by taking the energy out of that water and running it through the turbines that would provide electricity."

City Engineer Eric Klann has explained in the past that the total dissolved gases caused by water plunging over the dam can kill the fish.

Though city officials and other project leaders believe resolving the total dissolved gases issue would be enough to make up for a lack of fish passage during construction, they need an authority on the subject to complete a study that backs up that belief. They are, therefore, turning to Mount Hood Environmental, a scientific consulting business, to study the idea.

"There could be other mitigation further downstream," Forrester added, "in the form of fish screens or a habitat enhancement."

City Councilors approved pursuit of a professional services contract with Mount Hood Environmental last Tuesday.

The possible addition of a hydroelectric power plant on Bowman Dam was made possible when the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security and Jobs Act took effect in 2015. The legislation made multiple changes on the Crooked River, including removal of the federal Wild and Scenic designation boundary from the top of the dam.

If the project can move forward, leaders would begin work on securing funding for the power plant and then ultimately move on to construction. The project would be expected to create numerous construction jobs, and the 3 megawatts of power generated would power approximately 2,500 homes.

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