Opal Springs Fish Passage Project in Oregon is moving forward

Dec 21, 2017


Opal Springs Fish Passage Project in Oregon is moving forward

The Opal Springs Fish Passage Project planned for the 6-MW Opal Springs hydroelectric project located in the Columbia River Basin on Crooked River, in Jefferson County, Ore., is moving forward.

Deschutes Valley Water District (DVWD) owns and operates the project. On Dec. 20, General Manager Ed Pugh said the project has been in the works for many years, and now the water district has the funding to move forward.

The Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) estimates the entire project will cost about US$10.72 million, and agency documents indicate as of January, it has secured about $9.17 million in funding.

Project funding sources include: the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of Transportation Mitigation Fund, Bureau of Land Management, Trout Unlimited, Deschutes Partnership, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Focused Investment Partnership, Energy Trust of Oregon, Portland General Electric and DVWD.

Construction for the fish ladder and pool raise is planned to begin in 2018 with completion sometime in 2019.

The purpose of the overall project is to alter structural and operational changes to the Opal Springs scheme to allow upstream and downstream passage at its diversion dam for targeted federally protected fish species, according to OWRD.

Components of the Opal Springs facility include the following:

  • A 21-foot-high, 175.2-foot-long, concrete-capped, rockfill diversion dam that creates a pool with a storage capacity of 106.4 acre-feet;
    A 16-foot-diameter, 160-foot-long steel penstock;
  • Two turbine-driven pumps, one rated at 175 HP and the other at 480 HP;
  • A powerhouse containing one turbine generating unit with a nameplate capacity of 4.3 MW at a power factor of 0.85 providing 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) of powerhouse capacity;
  • A 250-foot-long, 20.8-kilovolt (kV) underground transmission line interconnecting to the Pacific Power and Light transmission system; and
    Appurtenant facilities.
  • In 1982, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission licensed the project to a 50-year term and it was commissioned in 1985.


In 2007, Portland General Electric, the owner/operator of the Pelton Round Butte project located 9 miles upstream from Opal Springs, began a fish passage project to reintroduce fish populations into Upper Deschutes River, Metolius River and Crooked River. The modification provides upstream and downstream passage for migratory resident and anadromous fish.

The 366.8-MW Pelton Round Butte project is a cascade of three generating sites, which include:

247-MW Round Butte, which is the furthest upstream and impounds Lake Billy Chinook;
100.8-MW Pelton, located 7 miles downstream from Round Butte Dam; and
18.9-MW Reregulating, 2.5 miles downstream from Pelton.
PGE’s move reintroduced salmon and steelhead into the Upper Deschutes Basin where they have been extirpated since the 1960s. DVWD initiated consultation resource agencies and non-governmental organizations and in 2011 signed a settlement agreement to guide the development of fish passage facilities for the project, according to official documents.

The agreement provided a framework for connecting aquatic habitat in Upper Crooked River with the lower Deschutes Basin, while recognizing the voluntary nature of DVWD participation and support for this action.

The Opal Springs Fish Passage Project is resultant from this 2011 settlement agreement between DVWD, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In 2015, DVWD filed an application for a non-capacity amendment through FERC to authorize upstream and downstream passage at the project; raise the operating elevation of the existing pool; and provide an adaptive management structure for managing fish passage facilities through the term of the amended license.

Also in October 2015, DVWD filed with FERC an Applicant Prepared Environmental Assessment (APEA) to assess environmental effects of the proposed action.

On April 6, 2016, FERC adopted the APEA in its entirety as its own environmental assessment.

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