Pacificorp asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to suspend the licensing proceedings for its six-megawatt Powerdale Hydro Electric project on the Hood River.
The request, if granted, will allow the company time to explore alternatives to licensing the project. one alternative could be "surrendering" or giving up the license. The company applied to the FERC in 1998 for a new license and it is expected soon.
Bill Eaquinto, vice president of hydro licensing for Pacificorp, said that a number of factors contributed to the company's request to pause the licensing project.
Analysis of the project indicates that future operations will cause power costs from Powerdale to jump significantly.
"It's a fairly small project, and when we began the licensing project in 1995, project economics were already marginal," said Eaquinto.
"Now we are faced with making significant capital improvements, and the cost to produce power from the project will increase beyond what makes sense for customers."
Making matters worse, a recent sediment study shows that project shutdowns are expected to occur often as a result of glacial sloughing from Mount Hood.
"Today, and well into the future, river flows will contain far more sediment than in the past, making normal operations impossible at times, and increasing operation and maintenance costs."
Pacificorp intends to seek input on Powerdale from state and federal fisheries agencies, the Warm Springs Indian Nation, irrigators and other key stakeholders in the process. Regardless of the final outcome of this review process, PacifiCorp does not anticipate removing the diversion dam for the project because it provides flows for fish counting and sorting facility adjacent to the dam, and is key to state and federal fish recovery plans in the basin.
PacifiCorp also owns and operates the Condit Hydroelectric Project across the Columbia River from Powerdale in Southwest Washington. In 1999, the company reached a settlement agreement with the Yakama Nation, state and federal agencies and environmental groups to remove the 125-foot high Condit Dam in 2006.