Juniper Ridge Hydroelectric Project Q A – The Neighborhoods Perspective

first_img E-Headlines According to Tom Hignell and other neighbors Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID) is proposing to destroy a reach of the historic Pilot Butte Canal in a northeast Bend residential neighborhood to expand their Juniper Ridge hydropower facility. COID has described the project as something that will adversely impact a few homeowners but benefit the community at large. If that were true, says Jeff Perreault in a recent editorial then the Deschutes County Planning Commission wouldn’t have voted unanimously against COID’s effort.Q: What is the scope of the project area?A: The project will pipe a section of the Pilot Butte Canal, currently managed by the Central Oregon Irrigation District (COID). The total length of the piped reach is about 4 miles.Q: How will the project be built?A: The project will be built in 3 phases. The first phase, completed in 2010, is approximately 2.5 miles in length. Phase II will be approximately 4500’ in length. Phase III will be approximately 3150’ in length.Q: How will the project be funded?A: Phase I needed a total of about $26M to complete, and involved a number of sources. The bulk of the funds were provided by a $17M loan from the Oregon Department of Energy Small-scale Energy Loan Program (SELP). Other contributors included non-profit organizations like the Deschutes River Conservancy (DRC), Federal agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), other State agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and private foundations.Phase II was initially estimated at costing $6.5M, and only five sources of funds were secured: $1.5M from the BOR via WaterSMART grants; $2.5M from the DEQ via loans; $1.5M from the Energy Trust of Oregon; $0.5M from the Pelton Fund; and $0.5M from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.Funding for Phase II has been thrown into question because of questionable practices in how the project was represented to different parties, including a lack of clarity with regard to land ownership as well as a Land Use Compatibility Statement (LUCS) that was rejected by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).It’s also unclear what the current project cost estimate is since a final design has yet to be published. Initial designs relied on COID gaining permission to excavate from private property owners; requests for permission have been denied. This has significant implications for the intake structure and configuration of an upstream stilling pond. Initial designs also called for significant changes to a Deschutes County road bridge where Old Deschutes Road crosses the Pilot Butte Canal. Those changes were rejected by the County. Further complicating the bridge crossing is a lack of full ownership by the County which will limit excavation to the area under the north end of the bridge.Q: How much water will be “conserved” by the project?A: Phase I conserved about 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of Deschutes River water. The entire amount was permanently restored to the Middle Deschutes.Phase II will conserve about 8 cfs, but only 20 percent, or 1.6 cfs, will be permanently restored to the Middle Deschutes. The remaining 80 percent, or 6.4 cfs, will continue to be diverted from the Deschutes River in Bend. It will be transferred by COID to the North Unit Irrigation District (NUID), and delivered to NUID at the Terrebonne crossover of the Pilot Butte and North Unit Canals. NUID may reduce its potential withdrawal from the Crooked River by a corresponding amount, but that hasn’t been verified. It’s also unclear why this solution has been proposed rather than NUID reducing its take from the Deschutes River.It’s estimated that Phase III could conserve as much as 21 cfs, but COID would only be legally committed to permanently restoring 20 percent of that amount, about 4 cfs, to the Middle Deschutes through reduced diversion. (See Attachment)Q: How much hydropower will be generated from each of the phases?A: Funding sources were told that Phase I would generate about 3.7 MW of peak power. However, since completion it’s only been generating about 3.3 MW of peak power. It’s not clear what’s responsible for the approximately 11 percent shortfall in performance. The total head drop in Phase I is about 130 feet, so peak power per foot of head drop is about 0.026 MW.Phase II has been estimated to generate an additional 0.863 MW of peak power by the Bureau of Reclamation. The total head drop in Phase II is about 32 feet, so peak power per foot of head drop is estimated at about 0.027 MW, consistent with Phase I production. The total head drop in Phase III will only be about 11 feet. At current production rates this would produce an additional 0.297 MW of peak power.In total, it’s projected that the Project will generate about 4.46 MW of peak power. The generating plant was outfitted with a 5 MW turbine as part of the Phase I construction. The 11 percent shortfall could potentially be made up by extending the project with a Phase IV that would extend a further 3050’ up the canal to an elevation of about 3500’. This would take it to a location adjacent to the 10 Barrel Brewery site in the Empire Commercial District.Q: Will the hydroelectric project have any adverse effect on other conservation measures?A: This is a question that can only be answered with speculation, but there are indications that could shed insights into possible outcomes.Swalley district used to allow its patrons to In-Stream Lease their water on a temporary basis to the Deschutes River without significant restrictions until they completed a hydropower facility at the head of their system. Since this completion, Swalley has changed their policy to only allow 1-yr temporary leases for patrons, and then only for those that have let their fields lie fallow for the 4 previous years. This would prevent the water from being confiscated and permanently reallocated in-stream by OWRD were they to become aware of the 5-year lack of beneficial use. There’s a question buried in here as to what’s happening to that water for the 4 years the patron isn’t using their water, but it’s still passing through the Swalley hydropower facility. The question was put to a senior OWRD manager and he stated that he was unconcerned about such a situation, that he was “confident” that Swalley would find another beneficial use and user for the water. Questioned further as to the legality of this “off the books” transfer, he said that “illegal” would be too strong a term to characterize the situation.COID similarly used to allow patrons to in-stream their water without significant restrictions. However, starting in 2010 they changed their policy to discontinue the practice. 2010 is also the year that Juniper Ridge Phase I came online, meaning that allowing patrons to in-stream their water would result in a loss of hydropower revenue. Coincidence can’t be taken as causation, but it does suggest that further study of the In-Stream Leasing mechanism may be merited, especially after the Fort Vannoy decision of 2008.Q: Safety concerns have been raised by COID; will the project enhance or damage safety in the residential community?A: COID has raised safety concerns regarding folks falling into the canal. There have been zero incidents of anyone falling into the canal along this reach, let alone any fatalities, over the last 40 years. There was a single incident of a transient being found in the canal, but it’s unclear how or where he was came to be in the canal.However, there are three serious safety risks that COID has pointedly failed to address: increased access to people’s backyards that the pipeline “highway” would enable, the exposure to a fatal fall that the intake area will present for six months of the year when the canal isn’t running, and the risk of a flooding event due to many aspects of the intake area and structures.First, the issue of increased access; currently the canal acts as an impediment to trespassing. Even when dry the canal bed is sufficiently rough that foot travel is difficult, and wheeled travel is next to impossible. If the canal is piped and a smooth surface contour is produced then there’ll be no impediment for folks on foot, bike, or motorcycle to travel not just along the path of the canal but also across it. This will be exacerbated because COID has already indicated that private fencing will not be allowed within the easement.Second, the issue of fall risk associated with the intake structure; all of you toured the current intake, but your ability to assess its danger was limited by the water filling the 30-foot deep stilling pond. Although access is limited on three sides, and there is signage warning of the danger, there’s no way to completely isolate the stilling pond, especially from curious children. A fall into the stilling pond when wet would be problematic because an individual would be swept up onto the trash rack if lucky, or sucked toward the intake if less fortunate. A fall into the forebay when dry would be catastrophic. It’s unlikely that a 30-foot fall, equivalent to a fall from the top of a 3-story structure, onto the rocky floor would be survivable. This risk can’t be eliminated because the design of a hydroelectric intake, by definition, requires a depth of water at least 2 ½ times the diameter of the pipe. In this case the diameter of the proposed pipe is 9 feet, so the minimum depth of water would be 23 ½ feet. The structure itself would have to be well in excess of this minimum water depth so that it would safely contain expected water levels.Third, the risk of flooding; making this part of the hydropower facility plan worse is that COID is proposing to place flanking earthen dam embankments on either side of the canal butting into the solid structure at about the 10 foot elevation (recall that the solid structure will likely rise to over 25 feet in height). These earthen dams are particularly prone to failure as has occurred in numerous locations throughout the United States. Since COID hasn’t shared any design plans that include structural components it’s unclear how they plan to safely butt the earthen dams to the solid structure. What are clear are the implications for a failure.The average flow in the Pilot Butte Canal in the summer months is approximately 500 cfs. This is a volume of water that would fill a typical suburban bedroom every 1 ½ seconds. Since there would be no way to staunch a dam breach other than closing the diversion gates miles upstream a failure would flow for hours before all the water finally drained from the system. Furthermore, a catastrophic failure would mean that in addition to current flow of 500 cfs, all the water in the impoundment area would also drain from the structure, so initially the flow rate could be in excess of 500 cfs.There’s a potential for loss of life were this type of failure to occur, but there’s be no way to avoid a loss of property. The canal channel would cease to exist because the pipe and covering layers would fill the current excavated channel completely in the vast majority of reaches. The flood waters would therefore have nowhere else to go other than through the residential neighborhood. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. The only recourse would be for property owners to purchase separate flood insurance from the only source available: the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) managed by FEMA. We all know that when FEMA responds it is only to Federally-declared disasters. Imagine this occurring in one of our residential neighborhoods. Moreover, NFIP insurance is capped at $250,000 regardless of the extent of damage, regardless of the replacement value of the structure(s). Covering excessive losses would be a further encumbrance on the property owners because COID, as a government municipality, is limited in their liability.Q: Where does the project currently stand?A: COID has applied for a Text Amendment (TA 13-4) to change Deschutes County Zoning Code to allow piping as an outright Permitted Use in the SR (Suburban Residential) 2.5 zone. If their application is denied then they could apply for permission under the Conditional Use portion of Title 19 (SR 2.5) Zoning Code.As previously mentioned, an appeal was made to LUBA regarding a LUCS filed with the DEQ to enable funding to be secured. LUBA found against COID and the case was remanded to the County for further review. This may have put the DEQ funding into jeopardy.TA 13-4 had been moving through the Deschutes County system during the first half of 2014. In February the issue came before the Planning Commission. A number of hearings were held that culminated in a May 8 meeting where the Planning Commissioners ruled unanimously against COID’s application. The ruling was non-binding, but served as a strong recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. Hearings have begun at that level and can be expected to conclude by late July to early August.Tom [email protected] By CBN Pinterest on July 29, 2014 Facebook Twitter Share.center_img Tumblr LinkedIn Google+ 0 Juniper Ridge Hydroelectric Project Q & A – The Neighborhood’s Perspective Emaillast_img read more