Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Frank Quimby
For Immediate Release:July 13, 2004
(202) 208-7291
Secretary Norton Lauds Settlement
Agreement for Oregon Hydroelectric Project

(WARM SPRINGS, OREGON) - Salmon and steelhead will migrate past a series of dams on the Deschutes River for the first time since 1968 under a plan that would provide major environmental and economic benefits to the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs and the people of Oregon, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said today. Norton announced the terms of the historic agreement at a signing ceremony among federal, tribal and private sector groups, paving the way for relicensing a hydroelectric complex owned by the Warm Springs Tribes and Portland General Electric.

"The agreement demonstrates how large-scale water management and hydroelectric operations can be carried out in innovative ways that protect tribal trust resources, promote tribal economic development, enhance the environment, and aid in the recovery of threatened species," Norton said. "The Warm Springs Tribes' efforts in this process are a model of tribal self-determination and self-governance." The Tribes and the utility would spend $135 million on the initiative, $121 million of that for fishery improvements, including habitat restoration on tributaries of the Deschutes River.

Norton called the settlement a triumph of collaboration over conflict among the 22 agencies and groups in the settlement, which required 19 months of intensive negotiations. "This pact underscores President Bush's belief that with collaboration, creative solutions, sound science and cutting-edge technology, communities can have healthy rivers and landscapes as well as thriving economies," Norton said.

Ron Suppah, chairman of the Warm Springs Tribal Council, said many generations will benefit from the pact. "The agreement will create a blueprint for wise natural resources management that is so important to our Indian people and financial resources that are vital to the tribal organization. Adding power generation has diversified our economic base and supported programs ranging from public safety to health and education." Under the agreement, the Tribes can buy additional shares of the project and expand their one-third ownership to majority control.

Peggy Y. Fowler, chief executive officer and president of Portland General Electric,

noted that PGE and the Tribes "share the stewardship of one of the West's most precious resources, the Deschutes River. Our customers depend on us to do the right thing for the environment. They also depend on us for electricity that powers vital aspects of everyday life. We're committed to deliver on both obligations."

Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers - a party to the settlement - said the agreement sets the bar for other dam operators across the country. "PGE, the Warm Springs tribes and the other settlement parties have proven that by working together, we can achieve great outcomes for this river's health, its salmon and steelhead, and its people. For all of the families who enjoy the Deschutes today, and for those future generations who will fish its waters, run its rapids and view its wildlife in the years to come, this agreement is cause for great celebration."

Reaches of the Deschutes River above and below the project are designated federal Wild and Scenic Rivers, an Oregon State Scenic Waterway and protected under the Warm Springs Tribes' Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Deschutes is a tributary of the Columbia River. The Pelton project is located about six miles west of Madras, Ore.

The settlement is one of the final steps in obtaining a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project -- the only major U.S. hydropower operation jointly owned by a tribe and a public utility. The project is the largest hydroelectric facility completely within the state of Oregon, producing 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable, peaking power for the Portland metropolitan area. The power can meet the needs of 137,000 homes or a city the size of Salem, Ore.

The Deschutes River and Pelton project sustain varied economies in Oregon by generating electricity, irrigating agricultural land, providing a fish harvest for the Tribes, and supporting recreation and tourism. However, the 20-mile long complex of three dams and two reservoirs has blocked salmon and steelhead migration in the Deschutes, Metolius and Crooked rivers above the project for 36 years.

The settlement's fish passage plan seeks to restore spring Chinook, sockeye salmon and steelhead runs above the project by redirecting surface currents, improving water quality, restoring habitat, increasing instream flows, protecting cultural resources and better managing shoreline erosion.

A key to the plan is a 270-foot underwater tower to be constructed by the year 2008 that will redirect surface currents in Lake Billy Chinook and collect fish for transport downstream, from where they can find their way to the ocean. The tower also will improve water quality, keeping the reservoir cooler in the summer and helping to maintain appropriate downstream temperatures.

"Over the long term, these improvements will reopen 226 miles of stream to salmon and steelhead, including vital ancestral spawning grounds, said Norton. "By the year 2010, reintroduced salmon and steelhead - and possibly sockeye salmon -- could begin their return trip from the Pacific, up the Columbia and Deschutes Rivers." DOI

The key to the Pelton project's fish passage plan is a 270-foot underwater tower that will be constructed by the year 2008 to redirect surface currents in Lake Billy Chinook and collect fish for transport downstream, from where they can find their way to the ocean. The 130-foot wide disk at the top has a 30-foot by 40-foot wedge that will draw in enough water volume to pull most of the surface currents downstream, along with the migrating fish. The fish are then piped into a tank for transport downstream. The tower also will improve reservoir and river water quality, keeping the reservoir cooler in the summer and helping to maintain appropriate downstream temperatures. The tower's estimated cost is about $60 million.


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