LIHI Certificate #25 – Pelton Round Butte Project, Oregon

The 366.82-MW Pelton Round Butte Project (Project), owned and operated jointly by Portland General Electric Company (PGE) and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (Tribes) (together, “Applicants”), consists of the Round Butte, Pelton, and Reregulating developments located on the Deschutes River in Jefferson County, Oregon. The Deschutes River basin is located in north-central Oregon and drains an area of approximately 10,500 sq mi. The Deschutes River generally flows in a northerly direction to its confluence with the Columbia River. The Project is located in the transition area between the lower and middle Deschutes River basins. The Reregulating Development is located approximately 100 miles upstream from the confluence of the Deschutes and Columbia rivers.

The Project boundary encompasses a total of approximately 14,300 acres. Most of this property is owned by the United States government and administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Included in the total are approximately 2,162 acres of lands within the Warm Springs Reservation; these lands are primarily located to the north of the Metolius River and to the west of the Deschutes River. Lands adjoining the Project include property owned by PGE, the United States government, the State of Oregon, the Tribes, and private citizens. United States government land in the Project vicinity consists primarily of the Deschutes National Forest, located south of the Metolius River, and the Crooked River National Grassland, located to the east of the Deschutes River and near its confluence with the Metolius River. The Crooked River National Grassland is administered by the Ochoco National Forest.

In addition to the lands occupied by the Project facilities and reservoirs, 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 Project’s three impoundments, 55% is publicly-owned, 30% is owned by the Tribes, 5% is owned by the Licensees, and 10% is owned by private parties other than the Licensees.

Project Facilities

The 366.82-MW Pelton Round Butte Project consists of 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 247.12-MW 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 located on the Deschutes, Metolius, and Crooked rivers.  The dam for the 100.8-MW Pelton Development is located on the Deschutes River about 7 miles downstream from the Round Butte Dam (at RM 103.4).  The 540-acre Pelton reservoir, known as Lake Simtustus, begins at the base of the Round Butte Dam.  The 18.9-MW 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) with a gross storage capacity of 535,000 acre-feet at the normal maximum water surface elevation of 1,945 feet mean sea level (msl); a powerhouse containing three 82.35-MW turbine generating units and one 70-kilowatt generating unit with a total installed capacity of 247.12 MW; three 2,800-foot-long, 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines extending from the powerhouse to the Round Butte Switchyard; a fish hatchery (Round Butte Hatchery) located adjacent to the dam; and appurtenant facilities.

The Pelton Development principally consists of a 636-foot-long, 204-foot-high concrete arch dam with a crest elevation of 1,585 feet msl; 7-mile-long, 540-acre reservoir (Lake Simtustus) with a gross storage capacity of 31,000 acre-feet at a normal maximum water surface elevation of 1,580 feet msl; a powerhouse with three turbine generating units with a total installed capacity of 100.8 MW; a 7.9-mile-long, 230-kV transmission line extending from the powerhouse to the Round Butte Switchyard; and other appurtenances.

The Reregulating Development principally consists of a 1,067-foot-long, 88-foot-high rock-filled embankment dam with a spillway crest elevation of 1,402 feet msl; a 2.5-mile-long, 190-acre reservoir with a gross storage capacity of 3,500-acre-feet and a useable storage capacity of 3,270 acre-feet at a normal maximum water surface elevation of 1,435 feet msl; a non-operating 3-mile-long fishway extending from the tailrace upstream to the forebay of the Pelton Development; a powerhouse containing one 18.9-MW, bulb-type turbine generating unit; a 200-foot-long, 6.9 kV primary transmission line extending from the generator to a step-up transformer located adjacent to the powerhouse; and other appurtenances.

Project Operations

The Settlement Agreement and the new license provide for the Licensees to institute a state-of-the-art program of controls of Project operations that will tightly constrain how the Project is operated, allowing the Licensees to operate the Round Butte and Pelton Developments for peak energy production and while operating the Reregulating Development to match Project outflows with daily average inflows.

The Round Butte and Pelton developments are operated as peaking facilities, typically generating between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.  Lake Billy Chinook provides seasonal storage and is drawn down as much as 20 feet, to elevation 1,925 feet msl, in the winter, although typically the reservoir is only drawn down about 10 feet, to elevation 1,935 feet.  The reservoir is typically refilled during the months of April and May.  During the summer, the reservoir is held at the highest practicable level with a relatively stable pool elevation that does not fluctuate more than 1.0 foot below the normal maximum pool elevation of 1,945 feet msl.  The surface elevation of Lake Simtustus usually fluctuates less than 0.75 foot per day but exceeds 3.5 feet per day about 25 percent of the time due to flow fluctuations produced by Round Butte.

The Reregulating Development is operated to attenuate high and low peak flows produced by the upstream developments.  Flow releases are controlled to maintain an average daily flow in the Deschutes River downstream of the Reregulating Dam that approximates the average daily inflow to the project.  The Reregulating Reservoir surface elevation fluctuates as much as 27 feet (between 1,435 feet msl and 1,408 feet msl) daily; however, typical fluctuations are about 15 feet daily.  The turbine and spillway gates automatically respond to river stage measurements recorded at a United States Geological Survey (USGS) gage (No. 14092500) located at the dam.

The Project is operated to provide flow releases below the Reregulating Development that equal or exceed the allowed minimum flow, which is defined according to a schedule of target flows that range from 3,500 cfs to 4,571 cfs by month.  These target flows must be met as long as Project inflows exceed the target flows and the established provision to allow for refilling of Lake Billy Chinook under low flow conditions is not in effect.  (Specific target flows by month, as well as the “Or Inflow” and “Refill Allowance” provisions, which specify conditions under which minimum flow may be reduced below the target flow, are described in Attachment 4, section A).  Fluctuations in the river below the Reregulating Dam are limited to 0.1 feet per hour and 0.4 feet per day, except from May 15 to October 15, when fluctuations are limited to 0.05 feet per hour and 0.2 feet per day.

Project Statistics

  • Pelton Round Butte is the largest hydroelectric project completely within Oregon’s boundaries.
  • The Project area is approximately 19,300 acres, with about 4,700 acres of that occupied by the reservoirs.
  • The Project length is about 20 river miles of the Deschutes River Canyon. The project also extends into two tributaries, the lower seven miles of the Crooked River and the lower 13 miles of the Metolius River.
  • The total annual power production (1.5 billion kilowatt-hours) is enough to supply more than 137,000 average homes in PGE’s service territory or a city about the size of Salem, Oregon’s capital.

Certification History

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 will be part of the new certificate, reflecting the recommendations of the Appeal Panel, the LIHI Board, and LIHI staff.  The conditions are as follows:

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:

  1. The cause of the event/deviation;
  2. The date, duration and magnitude of the flow deviation. For fish incidents, the date and number / type of species killed;
  3. 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;
  4. Ways to minimize future repeat occurrences to the extent possible by the Licensee;
  5. Any proposed mitigation measures and a schedule by which such measures will be implemented; and
  6. 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, click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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.