Deschutes Valley Water District's $10.7 million project at Opal Springs will help fish passage.

DESCHUTES VALLEY WATER DISTRICT PHOTO - Deschutes Valley Water District has been working on a fish ladder project at Opal Springs for more than a decade. Ground work is scheduled to start in April. The project is expected to cost nearly $11 million, and will be located on the east side of the Crooked River (on the left side of the photo).A fish ladder, expected to cost about $11 million, is in the works at the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project, operated by the Deschutes Valley Water District.

Construction on the project, which had been under consideration for more than a decade, is expected to start in April and be completed by the end of 2019, according to Ed Pugh, general manager of DVWD.

DVWD PHOTO - Opal Springs' generation plant and surge tank are viewed from above the canyon."The fish ladder and other facility improvements are designed to aid in the reintroduction of anadromous salmon and steelhead in the Deschutes Basin," said Pugh. "The project is the result of many years of discussions with fish agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties who have sought fish passage since the fish were reintroduced to the basin in 2012."

With the planned reintroduction in mind, the district has been working with other agencies for the past seven years to design and figure out ways to fund the project, which must now be authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In December, the project was among the top four selected for partial funding during the Oregon Water Resources Commission's 2017 review cycle. The Opal Springs project, ranked third out of 32 applications, will be granted $1,550,486 of the total estimated cost of $10,729,486.

"The original cost was more than $14 million, however the district has spent the last year working with the contractor and fish agencies to reduce cost without reducing effectiveness of the fish ladder," said Pugh.


"The district believes fish passage facilities will reduce risk to its operations from endangered species," he said, adding, "The agreement ensures that the project will continue to operate through the term of its FERC license, which expires in 2032."

Partners praised the project. "By following a proactive and voluntarily approach to providing fish passage, the district set the stage for significant public support for the project," said Chandra Ferrari, staff attorney for Trout Unlimited.

The district expects to spend about $4 million on the project, which will be constructed with a combination of district funds and grants from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Trout Unlimited, noted Pugh.

"These facilities are an important strategy on the part of the district to ensure continuing services to the district's customers for the foreseeable future," said Pugh.

Record Steel and Construction Inc., of Boise, Idaho, will be the contractor on the project which will include the fish ladder and pool raise.

Explaining the reasons for the pool raise, Pugh noted, "It allows us to build the fish ladder without breaching the pre-existing dam. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had valid concerns about dam safety and excavating pre-existing dams."

Additionally, he said, "It allows us to generate a little more energy, so we can designate some of it for a water bank. This will allow us to divert water over the dam at times for fish attraction purposes when fish biologists recommend it."

The small increase in energy production allows more support from the Energy Trust of Oregon.

DVWD provides water from Opal Springs to more than 4,000 local residents, who live in Madras, Culver, Metolius and surrounding areas in Jefferson County.

The district's mission is to provide safe and good tasting drinking water at a reasonable cost to existing and future district patrons while continuing a high level of customer service, said Pugh.

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