LIHI Certificate No. #145 – Opal Springs Project, Oregon

The Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project (OSHP) is located on the Lower Crooked River, and within a deep gorge approximately 5 miles southwest of Culver, in Jefferson County, Oregon. The Project extends from River Mile (RM) 6.9 on the Crooked River, less than a mile above Lake Billy Chinook, up to RM 7.8. The Project is owned by Deschutes Valley Water District (DVWD) which supplies drinking water to the local region.

The  project has a capacity of 4.3 MW and operates in a run-of-river mode with a continuous minimum flow of 50 cfs or inflow if less to protect aquatic resources.  The water right is for 1,772.5 cfs which can be fully used when river flows exceed 1,822 cfs.  The FERC license (No. 5891) was issued in 1982 with a 50-year term which expires in 2032.

In 2015 DVWD applied for a non-capacity license amendment for fish passage facilities.  The need for fish passage at OSHP was driven by a downstream unaffiliated hydroelectric project, Pelton Round Butte, installing fish passage.  The Pelton Round Butte fish passage created anadromous fish presence at OSHP.  To establish appropriate fish prescriptions, DVWD voluntarily engaged with stakeholders and a multi-party Settlement Agreement was developed in 2015, and later amended in 2017.

FERC issued the Non-Capacity Amendment approving the fish passage facilities and supporting adaptive management program on May 9, 2018.  Fish passage improvements include:

  • Construction of a fish ladder to provide passage into the spawning, rearing, and foraging habitats of the Crooked River sub-basin for adult anadromous summer Steelhead, spring Chinook salmon, and migratory bull trout, the latter of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Additionally, the facilities will reconnect populations of native redband trout upstream and downstream of the Project. Designs and specifications for the fish passage facilities are to be developed in consultation with the Opal Springs Fish Passage Working Group.
  • Raising the maximum operating elevation of the Project reservoir from 2,004.21 feet elevation NGVD 29 to 2,007.21 feet NGVD 29, through addition of a fixed flashboard. This new elevation will enable the DVWD to construct alternative downstream passage routes for migrating fish and will enable the establishment of a water credit system to supplement flow into the Project’s bypass reach and through the fish ladder.
  • Modifying the existing roughened spillway by creating a single smooth chute to enable safe, timely, and effective downstream fish passage.
  • Establishing a water credit system known as the Bypass Flow Accrual Account (BFAA). This water would serve as both attraction flow for upstream migrating adult fish that may be holding in the Project’s tailrace, and as alternative passage for downstream migrants.
  • Implementation of a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) program for assessing upstream and downstream passage relative to stated performance objectives.
  • Adaptive management of the Project to meet the fish passage performance objectives.

Once the fish passage work is completed the Project will consist of: a 21-foot-high, 200-foot-long concrete capped rockfill diversion dam, controlled with fixed flashboards creating a pool with a storage capacity of 119 acre-feet and area of 14.4 acres at normal maximum pool elevation of 2007.21 feet NGVD 29; a 30 cfs vertical slot ladder; a 44-foot by 33-foot, rectangular, concrete intake structure 34 feet in height; two 12.5-foot-diameter, 1,157-foot-long, buried, corrugated-metal conduits; a 30-foot-diameter steel surge tank-bifurcator; a 16-foot-diameter, 160-foot-long steel penstock; two existing turbine-driven irrigation pumps one rated at 174 horsepower and the other rated at 480 horsepower; a powerhouse containing one 4.3 MW generating unit; a 250-foot-long, 69.5 KV overhead transmission line; and appurtenant facilities.

Project Name Opals Springs
LIHI Certificate No. 145
LIHI Certificate Term April 25, 2018 – April 24, 2028
Owner Deschutes Valley Water District
State Oregon
Location Dam located at river mile 7.2 on the Crooked River in Culver, Jefferson County
Installed Capacity 4.3 MW
Average Annual Generation 29,509 MWh
Facility Type Run of river
FERC No. P-5891 issued 1982, expires 2032

Certification History

November 13, 2018:The decision to certify the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project is final. No appeals were received during the appeal period which closed on November 8, 2018. The new certification term for the Project is from April 25, 2018 through April 24, 2028. The certificate includes the following conditions:

  • Condition 1: Annual Flow Monitoring Reports will be due upon completion of the fish passage improvements in 2019. The Facility Owner shall provide copies of the reports and summaries of flow monitoring activities in the annual compliance statements submitted to LIHI.
  • Condition 2: Since the LIHI term will extend beyond the first 5-year review of the fish passage adaptive management program, the Facility Owner shall provide a summary in the annual compliance statements submitted to LIHI of activities related to implementation of the Settlement Agreement’s Fish Passage Protection Plan’s measures; and shall provide to LIHI a copy of results from the first 5-year Performance Assessment Interval, including any agency recommendations for modifications to fish passage facilities or to the monitoring program. LIHI reserves the right to revoke the PLUS standard for fish passage in the event that agencies determine that fish passage Performance Objectives are not being met.

October 9, 2018: On October 8, 2018, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) preliminarily approved Low Impact Certification for the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented on the initial application during the 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the Project does not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to with “Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Ave, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420. All requests will be posted to the website.  The applicant will have an opportunity to respond and any response will also be posted. Requests must be received by 5 pm Eastern time on November 8, 2018. 

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Opal Springs Project (pending LIHI # 145) will be April 25, 2018 through April 24, 2028.

May 1, 2018: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has received a complete application from the Deschutes Valley Water District for the Low Impact Certification of the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 5891).  The project dam is located at river mile 7.0 on the Crooked River a tributary to the Deschutes River in the town of Culver, Jefferson County, Oregon.

LIHI is seeking comment on the Opal Springs application for certification. Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered.  Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with “Opal Springs Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 329 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 2, Lexington, MA 02420.  Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on June 30, 2018 to be considered.  All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.  Any response will also be posted.