By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
March 3, 2007
A Chinook helicopter flying over the outskirts of Hood River in recent months has meant that a search and rescue operation was underway on Mount Hood — but the mission will be much different today.
A private chopper has been hired by PacifiCorp to salvage about 180 feet of 10-inch diameter steel pipe from Powerdale Dam. About 2,500 feet of wood and steel infrastructure has already been removed. The Hood River hydropower plant was taken offline by massive mudflows on Nov 7.
Dave Kvamme, PacifiCorp spokesperson, said the helicopter is necessary to remove the remaining sections of pipe that are located at the base of a steep canyon an inaccessible to regular vehicles. The pipe was either washed off its foundation or wrenched out of alignment by the force of the floodwaters.
“Anything that has been damaged we’re removing — more from a public safety angle than anything else,” he said.
He asks that curiosity seekers stay away from the work site and the off-loading area off Orchard Road near the Ken Jernstedt Airfield.
“We have designed the flight plan to avoid any houses or downtown Hood River,” said Kvamme.
He said the plan is to have the pipe dismantled on March 3, unless there are adverse weather conditions or flight scheduling delays.
Kvamme said the dam on the Hood River just south of the city is located near prime fishing holes. So, the company wants to ensure that abandoned pieces of pipe do not somehow cause an injury.
He said the hydropower plant has not been usable since the fall storm. And, since it is due to be decommissioned in 2010, the company felt that it would not make good business sense to sink millions into repairs.
According to Kvamme, a United States Geological Survey gauge recorded the highest flows in the history of the project during the recent flooding. The swollen river nearly overtopped the railroad bridge just upstream from the Powerdale Powerhouse.
He said glacial sediment, mixed with rocks and woody debris, carved out a new discharge channel and cut off flows into the dam that were used to generate electricity.
In 2003, a settlement agreement was reached between PacifiCorp and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to shut the facility down.
The dam, constructed in late 1922 and early 1923, was no longer generating the revenue of larger structures, making its operation less cost-effective.
In addition, Kvamme said the aging plant required a multi-million dollar overhaul of its fish ladder and screens to better protect endangered salmon runs. These pending expenditures were coupled with the need to make other capital improvements to extend the dam’s predicted lifespan of 2018.
PacifiCorp plans to turn management of the land over to another agency. The company intends that it be managed to wildlife habitat and recreational uses.