LIHI Certificate #25 - Pelton Round Butte Project, Oregon

Project Name Pelton Round Butte
LIHI Certificate No. 25
LIHI Certificate Term October 30, 2022 – October 29, 2035
Owner Jointly owned by Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs.
State Oregon
Location Located between river mile 100.1 and 110.4 on the Deschutes River in Jefferson County, Oregon.
Installed Capacity Total: 456.36 MW
Round Butte: 324.06 MW
Pelton: 112.05 MW
Reregulating: 20.25 MW
Average Annual Generation 1,310,924 MWh
Facility Type Round Butte & Pelton: Peaking
Reregulating: Operated to attenuate high and low peak flows produced by the upstream developments.
FERC No. P-2030 issued in 2005, expires 05/31/2055

The Pelton Round Butte Project is owned and operated jointly by Portland General Electric Company (PGE) and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. The project consists of the Round Butte, Pelton, and Reregulating developments located on the Deschutes River in Jefferson County, Oregon. The project is the largest hydroelectric project completely with Oregon’s boundaries.

The project includes three developments located in sequence on the Deschutes River. The powerhouses for all three developments are integral with each of the three project dams, and there are no bypassed reaches. The Round Butte Development is the uppermost development and is located at river mile (RM) 110.4. It includes the 4,000-acre Lake Billy Chinook, the Project’s largest storage reservoir. Lake Billy Chinook is fed from the Deschutes, Metolius, and Crooked Rivers. The dam for the Pelton Development is located about 7 miles downstream from the Round Butte Dam (at RM 103.4). The 540-acre Pelton reservoir, known as Lake Simtustus extends from the tailwater of the Round Butte Development. The Reregulating Development is the most downstream development; its 190-acre reservoir on the Deschutes River extends from the tailwater of the Pelton Dam 2.5 miles downstream to the Reregulating Dam at RM 100.1.

The Round Butte Development principally consists of a 1,382-foot-long, 440-foot-high compacted, rock-filled embankment dam; a reservoir (Lake Billy Chinook); a powerhouse containing three Francis turbine generating units with a total installed capacity of 324.06 MW; a fish hatchery (Round Butte Hatchery) located adjacent to the dam; and appurtenant facilities including a Selective Water Withdrawal (SWW) structure that blends discharge water from different levels in the impoundment and collects downstream migrating fish.

The Pelton Development principally consists of a 636-foot-long, 204-foot-high concrete arch dam; a 7-mile-long, 540-acre reservoir (Lake Simtustus); a powerhouse with three Francis turbine generating units with a total installed capacity of 112.05 MW; and other appurtenant facilities.

The Reregulating Development principally consists of a 1,067-foot-long, 88-foot-high rock-filled embankment dam; a 2.5-mile-long, 190-acre reservoir; a non-operating 3-mile-long fishway extending from the tailrace upstream to the forebay of the Pelton Development; a powerhouse containing one 20.25-MW, bulb-type turbine generating unit; and other appurtenant facilities including an upstream fish passage trap/haul facility (Pelton Adult Trap).

The Round Butte and Pelton developments are operated as dispatchable (peaking) facilities. During the spring fish migration season (March 15 to June 15), generation is increased during the evening hours to improve fish collection at the SWW. The Reregulating development is operated to attenuate the high and low peak flows produced by the upstream developments. The project is operated to provide flow releases below the Reregulating development that equal or exceed the required minimum flow, a target flow ranging monthly from 3,500 cfs to 4,571 cfs, with limits on stage changes that vary seasonally.

Waters upstream and within the project reach are designated as not meeting water quality standards for flow modification, dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature. Further, Lake Billy Chinook and Lake Simtustus are not meeting standards for pH and chlorophyll-a. However, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) has determined that the project is not responsible for these impairments, although project operations affect water quality. The project constantly monitors water quality conditions and adapts operations in an effort to minimize project impacts under a Water Quality Monitoring and Management Plan. Operations are reviewed by the Fish Committee developed by the signatories of the project’s Settlement Agreement and comprised of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), ODEQ, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, and Trout Unlimited (representing additional conservation interests including the Native Fish Society, WaterWatch, Freshwater Trust, and American Rivers).

Several fish passage facilities have been implemented at the project developments. Migratory fish species in the project reach include Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, bull trout, Pacific lamprey and steelhead. Upstream passage is provided by the Pelton trap and truck facility located at the base of the Reregulating Dam. Fish are collected and trucked around the Reregulating Reservoir and Lake Simtustus and released into Lake Billy Chinook via the adult release facility which was constructed in the forebay of Lake Billy Chinook. Downstream migrating individuals are collected at the SWW which creates an attraction flow at the surface to encourage salmonids to enter the fish collection facility. Fish are collected, sorted, and marked at the fish transfer facility then trucked, and released below the Reregulating development. Any non-migratory riverine species are released back into Lake Bill Chinook.  The Fish Committee was . The Fish Committee is tasked with realizing fish passage goals and assessing the efficacy of passage facilities at the project. NMFS, USFWS, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited, all of whom participate on the committee, have expressed their support for the ongoing passage efforts.

The Project boundary encompasses a total of approximately 14,300 acres. Most of this property is owned by the federal government and administered by the USFS, BLM, and BIA. Included in the total are approximately 2,162 acres of lands within the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Lands adjoining the project include property owned by PGE, the federal government, the State of Oregon, the Tribes, and private citizens. US government land in the project vicinity consists primarily of the Deschutes National Forest and the Crooked River National Grassland. The Crooked River National Grassland is administered by the Ochoco National Forest. Additionally, the project includes 10,797 acres of undeveloped uplands that are managed for wildlife habitat. Of this total, 7,700 acres are located within the Metolius Mule Deer Winter Range, generally south and west of Lake Billy Chinook; approximately 3,000 acres are located in the Trout Creek basin, a tributary to the Deschutes River downstream of the project; and 97 acres are located along Campbell Creek near the Reregulating Reservoir within the project boundary. Considering only shoreline along the three impoundments, 55% is publicly owned, 30% is owned by the Tribes, 5% is owned by the project, and 10% is owned by private parties. Lands owned by PGE are managed under a variety of terrestrial resource plans and subject to review by the Terrestrial Resources Working Group and the Shoreline Management Working Group.

PLUS-Standard: The project owner has contributed over $20 million to the Pelton Round Butte Fund, a funding mechanism for river enhancement, riparian support, and acquisition of land, water, and water rights for conservation. Over 60 recipients have benefited from the fund, resulting in benefits to Chinook salmon populations, wildlife restoration, and river quality enhancement. Project proposals for these funds are submitted and reviewed by a Technical Review Team and approved by the Pelton Fund Governing Board.

Threatened or endangered species potentially present in the project vicinity include gray wolf, steelhead trout and bull trout.  Bald eagles are also present. Occasional incidental takes of the listed fish species which were authorized by USFWS and NMFS under separate biological opinions. Notification of these events is timely and USFWS and NMFS are supportive of the project owner’s efforts to minimize impact on the listed species.

Several archaeological, historic, and traditional use properties have been identified at the project. The project trains operational staff on proper stewardship of these resources and works with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs to provide guidance on preservation of resources in the project area. The project operates under a Cultural Resources Management Plan overseen by the Cultural Resources Working Group.  PGE consults with the Tribe and State Historic Preservation Office, and files annual reports detailing protection activities, any potential concerns associated with cultural resources, and planned measures undertaken to repair damage or minimize potential for future damage.

Recreational resources at the project include thirteen recreational areas. These areas provide trails, campsites, access roads, beach and picnic areas, boat launches, ADA-compliant recreation facilities, hiking trails, interpretive signage and boat moorings. The project operates under a Recreation Resources Implementation Plan and an Integrated Interpretive and Education Plan, overseen by the Recreation Resources Working Group.  PGE and the Tribe also provide financial support for non-Project recreational facilities that serve as alternative destinations away from the Project.Public access is provided free of charge to project amenities.


Compliance Status

The Certificate includes the following facility-specific conditions:

  • Condition 1 – The facility Owner shall notify LIHI within 60 days of any newly adopted state water quality regulations that apply to the Project, draft or final modifications of the Project Water Quality Certifications and/or the need to revise the WQMMP as a result of any such changes. This notification shall include the Owner’s plan and anticipated schedule for addressing these changes. LIHI reserves the right to conduct an updated certification review of the Project pursuant to these changes. Updates on activities related to this condition shall be included in the annual compliance submittals to LIHI.
  • Condition 2 – In annual compliance submittals to LIHI, the facility Owner shall provide updates on downstream fish passage efficiency rates, any studies and/or modifications made to the SWW or other features intended to enhance downstream passage, overall progress toward meeting the long-term downstream passage efficiency target of 75%, and any communications from the USFWS and NMFS as to whether or not the agencies are satisfied with the level/progress being made toward that goal. Should the agencies modify the current downstream passage efficiency target value, the Owner shall notify LIHI within 60 days.
  • Condition 3 (Optional)– If prior to six months before the expiration of the Certification term, the 75% passage target has been met with proof of agency concurrence, the Owner can request LIHI’s consideration of a PLUS credit. LIHI will review the information provided and determine whether or not to award the PLUS and extend the Certificate term for two additional years.

2023: No material changes or compliance issues were identified. The project remains in compliance based on the annual review.  For Conditions 1, 2, and 3 the project reported no changes.

 2022: Annual reporting for the current Certificate has not yet taken effect.


Certification History

April 19, 2023: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has issued a final decision on the recertification of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project. The certification term is October 30, 2022 through October 29, 2035.

April 5, 2023:  The 2023 recertification report was revised to correct minor errors in Section V and VIII.F.  The revised report with changes highlighted in yellow/strikeout is available below.

March 20, 2023: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved the Pelton Round Butte Project (LIHI #25) for a new 13-year term of Low Impact Certification. 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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Pelton Round Butte Project” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476. 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 April 19, 2023. The full application and reviewer’s report are available below. If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the Certification term for the Project will be October 30, 2022 through October 29, 2035.

November 16, 2022: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has received a complete recertification application from Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs for the Pelton Round Butte Project. The complete application can be found below. LIHI is seeking comment on this application. 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 LIHI by e-mail at comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Pelton Round Butte Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on January 15, 2023 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.

March 11, 2016:  On October 1, 2015, LIHI announced the Preliminary Decision made by the LIHI Governing Board Technical Committee that the Pelton Round Butte (PRB) Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2030) continues to satisfy the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria.  A 30-day appeal period was open through October 31, 2015.  A request for appeal of the certification decision was filed by Deschutes River Alliance (DRA) on October 28, 2015.  LIHI staff considered the merits of the Appeal, accepted the appeal request, and with input from the two parties, formed an Appeals Panel to consider the record of decision.  On February 29, 2016 the Appeals Panel finalized their Determination, which is that the Preliminary Certification Decision was made correctly and is consistent with the LIHI Certification Criteria. The Panel affirmed the issuance of Certificate No. 25 for the Pelton Round Butte Project and recommended minor modifications of the associated, project-specific conditions. The PRB-DRA Appeal process has now been completed. The Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric project is now deemed certified by LIHI. The effective date for the Pelton Round Butte certification is October 30, 2014 for an eight (8) year term, which will expire on October 30, 2022. Three project-specific conditions are part of the new certificate, reflecting the recommendations of the Appeal Panel, the LIHI Board, and LIHI staff.

Condition 1.  As part of the required annual Compliance Statement to LIHI, the facility owner shall identify any deviations from FERC operating requirements and will include copies of all agency and FERC notifications and reports of flow deviations that have occurred in the previous year, as well as incidents reportable under License Article 405 (i.e. injury/death of ESA or non-ESA fish species). This report shall be submitted by June 1 for the previous year’s events. This report shall reference and include copies of all notifications made to the FERC during the previous year, as well as either a copy, or an electronic address to a publically available copy (preferred), of the annual report of monitoring data that is required under its most recent FERC license.  Unless otherwise included in the FERC notifications themselves, the report to LIHI shall describe for each instance:

    • The cause of the event/deviation;
    • The date, duration and magnitude of the flow deviation. For fish incidents, the date and number / type of species killed;
    • Confirmation that the required verbal notices have been made to the applicable agencies based on the type of event (flow deviation or fish kill). This data shall list the date of and to whom all notifications were sent;
    • Ways to minimize future repeat occurrences to the extent possible by the Licensee;
    • Any proposed mitigation measures and a schedule by which such measures will be implemented; and
    • Status or confirmation that the previously developed mitigation measures (for the previous year) have been implemented according to the proposed schedule.

The owner shall maintain a proactive approach to reducing the frequency and severity of such deviations and incidents to the extent reasonably possible.  The annual compliance report to LIHI will be used as confirmation that the facility owner is conducting the necessary actions to minimize such events and ensure compliance with LIHI’s flow, fish passage and endangered species criteria.

Condition 2:  The facility owner shall provide LIHI with a description of the current status and use of funds from the General Fund and the Water Rights Fund that were part of the Settlement Agreement and current FERC license for the past year, as part of the Annual Compliance Letter to LIHI. In particular, this description shall identify the lands and waters that are benefiting from the funds and be sufficient to determine if the programs funded continue to achieve the ecological and recreational equivalent of land protection of the buffer zone referred to in Question D.1. This information will be used by LIHI staff to determine if the Pelton-Round Butte certification continues to qualify for three additional years in its term. Submission of a copy of the annual report sent to FERC under Article 436, or a link to it on FERC’s eLibrary, would satisfy this reporting requirement.

Condition 3. The goal of this Condition is to ensure that all interested stakeholders have access to relevant monitoring data for water quality and fish passage, and that stakeholders have an opportunity to share their concerns about progress toward the SA goals with PGE on at least a regular, annual basis. Such information access shall be coordinated with the Fish Committee that was established in the SA and FERC license. Such information sharing shall include the modeling results and analysis that will come from the Nutrient and Algae Study that PGE started in February 2015, the purpose of which is to understand the complex dynamics of the waters entering and leaving the PRB facilities. The study plan, as well as findings expected in 2018, shall be part of the materials shared with stakeholders. PGE shall establish a means to facilitate sharing of ongoing environmental studies and results from the adaptive management program associated with operations of the selective withdrawal tower with stakeholders who have demonstrated an interest in such Project activities. This information sharing may include newsletters, notices of new study findings, posting of such materials / announcements on PGE’s website or other similar methods. Such announcements of new information shall be done at least semi-annually. A method for stakeholders to provide comment to PGE on this information shall also be developed.  PGE shall notify LIHI within 60 days of LIHI recertification as to the method(s) by which such information sharing will be accomplished. A summary of information so communicated shall be included in the annual compliance reports to LIHI.  If PGE misses any deadlines established in their FERC license, the SA or ODEQ’s WQC for reports related to water quality or fish passage, PGE shall notify LIHI within 30 days of that occurrence, explain the reasons for the missed deadline, and define remedial actions they plan to take to get back on schedule.

October 28, 2015:A request for appeal of the certification decision was filed by Deschutes River Alliance (DRA).  Their request for appeal is available in the files below.

October 1, 2015:The LIHI Governing Board via a decision by its Technical Committee, determined that the the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2030) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria. This is a Preliminary Decision and a 30-day appeal period will be open through October 31, 2015 for any Commenter on the Application to Recertify the Pelton Round Butte facility, who commented within the 60-day public comment period.

March 6, 2015: LIHI received a letter from Portland General Electric Company, in response to the comment letter received from the Deschutes River Alliance. The letter can be read in the Files section at the bottom of the page.

January 5, 2015: LIHI received a comment letter on the application for a second term from the Deschutes River Alliance, a science-­‐based, nonprofit, tax-­‐exempt organization advocating for the health of the Deschutes River.  To read the letter scroll to the files section below.

November 7, 2014: LIHI received an application for a second term of Low Impact Certification of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project, FERC #2030, located on the Deschutes River in Oregon. The current Certificate term was set to expire on October 30, 2014, however the Institute has extended the current term through March 31, 2015 in order to complete the application review. The 2014 Pelton Round Butte application materials are available below.

March 28, 2007: The Pelton Round Butte Hydropower Project has been certified as low impact for an eight year term, effective October 30, 2006 and expiring October 30, 2014.

October 30, 2006: Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs have filed an application for certification of the Pelton Round Butte Project, which they jointly own.


Certification Files

2022 Recertification

2016 Recertification

2007 Certification


Key Documents