The Falls Creek Hydroelectric project is a small electric power generating facility located near the South Santiam River, 25 miles east of Sweet Home, Oregon, in the Willamette National Forest. The Falls Creek project generates power from a small quantity of water falling 2,381 feet. It is a “high head” plant, and has one of the highest “head pressures” in the northwest.

Project Name Falls Creek
LIHI Certificate No. 4
LIHI Certificate Term June 3, 2017 – June 2, 2025
Owner Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, LLC
State Oregon
Location Located at river mile 2.3 on Falls Creek, 25 miles east of Sweet Home, in the Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Installed Capacity 4.9 MW
Average Annual Generation 15,200 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-6661 exempt 1983

The Falls Creek Project is a run-of-river project, making use of available stream flow. A low diversion on Falls Creek diverts excess water from a 5-foot deep pool, into the penstock pipe. Most of this excess water comes from rainfall in the fall and winter and snow runoff in the spring. The amount of stream flow during these periods is frequently greater than 50 cubic feet per second (cfs), and occasionally exceeds 200 cfs. The Falls Creek Project draws about 26 cfs of this flow. Between August and October, stream flow drops to less than one cfs. Because of the lack of excess water, the plant uses this time period for routine and preventative maintenance.

From the point where the water is diverted, Falls Creek continues to run 2.3 miles further to the South Santiam River. This section of the creek is very steep, containing no anadromous fish (salmon or steelhead). Along this stretch, only a few trout live in pools formed by falls. During operation of the project, sufficient water remains in Falls Creek beyond the diversion to maintain these pools.

Water is delivered through 7,380 feet of 30, 24, and 20-inch welded steel penstock, dropping 2,381 feet down the mountainside to the powerhouse on the south bank of the South Santiam River. The entire length of the pipe is buried, with natural vegetation allowed to cover the route, thus concealing it from sight. The project is located on Forest Service land. The powerhouse is located directly across the river from a campground. It was designed to blend into the natural environment and not impact campground users. This was successfully accomplished by earth sheltering, sound control, and screening with native vegetation.

When the water reaches the powerhouse, it creates a pressure of approximately 1030 psi. The Turbine Generator rotates at 1200 RPM, and generates 4.9 megawatts at full load. The plant output depends on the stream flow available for generation. The turbine spear valves are opened or closed to regulate flows to the turbine based on head level signals from the diversion that indicate the amount of water availability.

The power plant operates using a GE Fanuc 90-30 PLC control system with a head-end interface computer system called Lookout. The plant can be monitored, and re-started if necessary via remote control.

Power is generated at 4160 volts, then transformed to 20,800 volts for transmission via PacifiCorp’s local distribution lines. Power is sold to PacifiCorp under a 35-year operating agreement.


“Full Circle,” is a short film telling the history of hydropower in the NW, discussing the creation of PURPA, (the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978), and highlighting different kinds of hydro projects and their economic benefits now and in the future. (Video from 1984, Narrated by Ed Ragozinno, written by Steve Christianson and Gary Marcus) Winner of the Governor’s Energy Award


Certification History

July 26, 2018 – The 30-day appeal window for the preliminary certification decision of the Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project closed on July 21, 2018 with no appeals to the decision received. The decision is therefore final and the Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project is recertified for a term from June 3, 2017 through June 2, 2025.

The Falls Creek Project was able to receive an 8-year term due to their PLUS Standard (going above and beyond in one or more LIHI Criteria):

The Project Owner has a history of proactive engagement with the community to enrich educational opportunities that are unique and relevant to the Project, to the LIHI Criteria, and more broadly, to foster appreciation of the importance of natural, cultural and historic resources preservation.  For the last 25 years, Project staff host area school children on a creative, fun tour of the Project, hydropower in general, environmental resources, energy conservation, and the history of the local area.  See https://lebanon-express.com/news/local/power-play-lebanon-fourth-graders-tour-hydroelectric-plant/article_ef17315f-089d-5777-b119-3a5d7c8d6b79.html for recent activity.  Project staff also conduct tours and campfire presentations for visitors to the nearby National Forest campground.

June 21, 2018: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has preliminarily approved the Falls Creek Project for a new 8-year term of Low Impact Certification.

This decision is preliminary pending the 30-day appeal window. Only those who commented in the initial application 60-day comment period are eligible to file an appeal. Such appeal needs to include an explanation as to how the projects do not meet the LIHI criteria. Appeal requests can be submitted by email to comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Falls Creek 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 and 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 July 21, 2018.  The full application and reviewers report are available at the bottom of this page.

If no appeal requests are received and the decision becomes final, the new term for the Falls Creek Project will be June 3, 2017 through June 2, 2025.

January 30, 2018:  The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project. The Project is located on Falls Creek, 20 miles east of Sweet Home, in the Willamette National Forest, Oregon. The complete application can be found below.  LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Falls Creek meets the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria, as revised in the 2nd Edition Handbook.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2018 application materials posted on the Project page.

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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org with “Falls Creek 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 March 31, 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.

January 26, 2018:  The Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project has been granted another extension of the current term through April 30, 2018.

November 28, 2017: The Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project has been granted an extension of the current term through January 31, 2018.

May 30, 2017:  The Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project has been granted an extension of the current term through November 30, 2017.  See extension letter below. 

July 12, 2012: The Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project continues to meet the Low Impact Hydropower Certification Criteria, and has been recertified for a five year term, beginning June 3, 2012 and expiring June 3, 2017.

August 17, 2007: The Falls Creek Project has been recertified as low impact, continuing to meet LIHI’s eight environmentally rigorous criteria.  The Board’s vote to re-certify Falls Creek was unanimous. The effective certification date is May 1, 2007.

June 3, 2002: The Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project has become the first hydropower facility in Oregon to earn LIHI’s Low Impact Hydropower Certification. It is certified for a five year term, effective June 3, 2002 and expiring June 3, 2007.


2018 Recertification

2012 Recertification

2007 Recertification

2002 Certification