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News Release
May 22, 2006

Pelton Butte Fact Sheet

Pelton Round Butte is the only hydroelectric project in the U.S. jointly owned by a Native American tribe and a utility. Currently, the project is two-thirds owned by Portland General Electric (PGE), headquartered in Portland, Ore., and one-third owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (CTWS), through its Warm Springs Power Enterprises. (CTWS consists of the Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute tribes.)

The Tribes purchased their first interest in the 465-megawatt project from PGE effective Jan. 1, 2002. They have the option to purchase additional interests up to a maximum of 50.01 percent as early as the year 2029, according to the ownership agreement. The Reregulating Dam powerhouse remains wholly owned by the Tribes.

On the Deschutes River in Jefferson County, Ore., approximately six miles west of Madras, Ore., and approximately 90 miles southeast of downtown Portland, Ore. About one third of the central hydro project (dams, reservoirs and shore land) is located on the Warm Springs Reservation.

Deschutes River
The Deschutes River is the lifeblood of Central Oregon and one of the most beloved waterways in the state. Approximately 250 miles long, it originates at Lava Lake in the Cascade Mountains and flows north, dropping 4,589 feet along its way to the Columbia River. Major tributaries include the Crooked River and Metolius River. The term “lower Deschutes” refers to the 100 miles of the river below the Pelton Round Butte Project.

The Deschutes supports unique native fisheries of national significance, including Chinook salmon, steelhead, redside trout (rainbow trout) and bull trout. Reaches above and below the project have been designated as federal Wild and Scenic Rivers, an Oregon State Scenic Waterway and are protected under the CTWS Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The river sustains varied economies by generating electricity, irrigating agricultural land, providing a fish harvest for the Tribes and supporting recreation and tourism. The Deschutes draws white water rafters and fishermen from all over the region, while its reservoirs provide water skiing, shoreline camping and other recreation. Those benefits have come at a cost to the river, which the Pelton Round Butte relicensing agreement will help offset.

Project vital statistics
Pelton Round Butte is the largest hydroelectric project completely within Oregon’s boundaries.

  • Project area: Approximately 19,300 acres, with about 4,700 acres of that occupied by the reservoirs.
  • Project length: 20 river miles of the Deschutes River Canyon. The project also extends into two tributaries, the lower seven miles of the Crooked River and the lower 13 miles of the Metolius River.
  • Total annual power production (five-year average): 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours, enough to supply more than 137,000 average homes in PGE’s service territory or a city about the size of Salem, Oregon’s capital.
(type, year built)
Height Length Reservoir
Power capacity Power production
(annual, 5-yr average)
Round Butte
(Rock fill, 1964)
440 ft 1,382 ft  Lake Billy Chinook
(4,000 acres)
338 MW 997,892,000 kWh
(Concrete arch, 1957)
204 ft 636 ft Lake Simtustus
(540 acres)
108 MW 431,344,000 kWh
(Concrete & rock fill, 1957)
88 ft 1,067 ft Reregulating reservoir
(190 acres)
19 MW 83,098,000 kWh

Economic impact
The Pelton Round Butte Project provides jobs for 40 full-time employees (including Warm Springs Power Enterprises staff) with an annual payroll of about $1.9 million. The project is a significant source of property tax revenue for Jefferson County.

Recreation and tourism activities supported by the project include boating, sport fishing, white water rafting, wildlife observation, photography and streamside hiking and camping. On Lake Billy Chinook, Cove Palisades State Park estimates its economic impact at $15.3 million, based on a 2002 survey.

The project is an important financial resource for the Confederated Tribes. Electric power generation has diversified their economic base and supported programs ranging from public safety to health and education.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a new 50-year project license to PGE and the Tribes on June 21, 2005. The commitments stated in the multiparty settlement agreement described below, as modified by FERC, will become conditions of the new license.

Relicensing agreement
The relicensing process creates the opportunity to implement a wide variety of programs that benefit fish, wildlife and recreation and preserve history and culture. Determining the appropriate balance among various interests is challenging and in some instances leads to conflicts or lengthy court battles — with outcomes that may satisfy no one.

The Pelton Round Butte project owners and a wide variety of government and non-government organizations representing the various interests chose to instead take a collaborative approach. It reached agreement on the future operating conditions and long-term resource protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures. After 19 months of dialogue, 22 organizations signed the relicensing agreement on July 13, 2004.

Investment in project, fish passage and habitat improvements
Over the 50-year license period, the Tribes and PGE plan to invest more than $135 million in the project license period, more than $121 million of it earmarked for fish-related projects and activities (2003 dollars).

Fish passage history
The original fish passage system for Pelton Round Butte combined downstream pipelines with upstream fish ladders and a gondola that transported fish upstream over Round Butte Dam, the uppermost dam in the project. Unfortunately, the passage system failed, due primarily to downstream migration problems in Lake Billy Chinook, the reservoir behind Round Butte Dam. Currents from the Deschutes and Crooked rivers enter the east arm of the lake. Instead of flowing to the fish intake at the dam, most of those relatively warm currents turn left, to the west (Metolius River) arm, and head upstream over the top of the colder Metolius current. The water that does turn downstream, toward the dam, swirls in eddies with no particular direction. The migrating fish in the currents rarely found their way toward the collection facility in the Round Butte Dam forebay. This problem was recently reconfirmed in studies of migrating fish that carried tiny radio transmitters.

In 1966, when it was apparent fish passage wasn’t functioning well, the system was abandoned. Kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon) arrived in the new reservoir, starting as the native sockeye population in Suttle Lake. Wild kokanee have historically been very abundant, with 70,000 to 100,000 taken by anglers annually. Although a few landlocked Chinook and steelhead survive to this day, the last anadromous fish migrated through the project in 1968. As an alternative to fish passage, PGE funded an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife steelhead and Chinook salmon hatchery program during the first license period.

Salmon and steelhead migration restoration
The multi-organization agreement for relicensing Pelton Round Butte lays out a comprehensive fish passage program, including a solution to facilitate juvenile fish collection efforts in the Round Butte Dam forebay. Efforts will include (all dates are approximate):

  • Construction of a 273-foot tall Selective Water Withdrawal tower to be completed in 2009. The tower will attach to the present deep intake and rise out of the lakebed about 700 feet upstream of Round Butte Dam. It will be capped with a rectangular shaped intake module that will collect migrating fish and separately send water to the generators. The tower and related facilities should cost about $90 million.
  • In 2009-2010, the Selective Water Withdrawal tower will be operational and begin collecting migrating fish. The fish will be collected by a screen on the surface of the wedge, piped to a fish handling facility, and then transported downstream of the project where they’ll swim to the ocean. The water from the tower will separately pass through turbines at the base of the dam to generate electricity.
  • Long term, biologists predict that at least 96 percent of the juvenile fish collected at the water withdrawal tower will be safely transported downstream of the project.
  • By 2010 and 2011 the adult salmon and steelhead should begin a return trip from the Pacific, up the Columbia and Deschutes. They’ll be captured at the Reregulating Dam, then trucked upstream past the dams to complete their life cycles.
  • The improvements will potentially reopen 226 stream miles to salmon and steelhead migration (contingent on installation of a fish ladder at Opal Springs Dam on the Crooked River).
  • The plan facilitates the return of spring Chinook and sockeye salmon to the Metolius River and steelhead to the Crooked River (to Bowman Dam) and the Deschutes River (to Big Falls near Redmond).

Water temperature regulation
The tower’s draw of warmer water off the surface of Lake Billy Chinook will keep the reservoir cooler in the summer, creating a healthier environment for fish. The tower also has an intake near its bottom, so it can draw cold water during summer and fall to mix with warmer surface water. This will maintain appropriate downstream temperatures in the lower Deschutes River. The modified reservoir environment should provide an even better habitat for bull trout, kokanee and the rearing of juvenile sockeye salmon.

Downstream flow
All parties to the agreement recognized that river flow downstream of the project is essential to healthy trout and salmon populations by providing appropriate flows and temperature, and maintaining the spawning gravel’s water oxygen levels. Most importantly, flows below the project during the new license term will be close to flows from above — consistent with state and Wild and Scenic waterway standards. Round Butte Dam and Pelton Dam will continue to be run as “peak power” operations, ensuring PGE’s ability to promptly respond to consumer demand, but the furthest downstream part of the project, the Reregulating Dam, will continue to manage steady flows below the project and ensure that fish habitat and target flow needs are met.

Additional habitat, fish and wildlife programs
The agreement includes major fish and wildlife habitat restoration projects outside of Pelton Round Butte’s reservoir area, including protection of approximately 11,000 acres near the dams. Projects include:

  • Restoration of fish and wildlife habitat along 12 miles of Trout Creek, a primary Deschutes River spawning tributary for threatened summer steelhead. A portion of the restoration effort will occur on Trout Creek Ranch, 3,000 acres located 15 miles north of Madras (downstream of the project). The ranch was purchased by PGE in 1999 through the River Conservancy and is now jointly owned with the Tribes. The ranch also provides habitat for mule deer, elk, birds of prey such as golden eagles, and upland bird species.
  • Restoration of fish passage will reconnect migratory corridors for isolated bull trout populations, enhancing genetic exchange and diversity. This satisfies one of four proposed criteria necessary for the recovery of this threatened species in the Deschutes River Basin.
  • The 7,700-acre mule deer winter range, located west of Pelton Round Butte, is part of the jointly owned project lands, providing undisturbed winter habitat and forage for deer and elk. Disturbance caused by human activity may cause deer to deplete their energy reserves.
  • Bald eagle monitoring and protection: Eight nesting pairs reside year-round. The agreement assures nesting site protection. Strategies include closing roads near nests during wintertime and during nesting so nest sites are not disturbed.
  • Pacific lamprey: The Tribes and PGE will study this species for possible reintroduction above, or habitat protection and enhancement below, the project.
  • The licensees will continue to fund Round Butte hatchery production to enhance lower river anadromous fisheries.
  • Pelton Round Butte Fund: $21.5 million will be dedicated over the next license term to strategic water acquisition and habitat restoration project to benefit the anadromous fish reintroduction effort.

Historic preservation
The joint project owners are working to protect historic and cultural resources within the project area. These include archeological sites, culturally significant plants and historic properties.

Timeline (Abbreviated)
2007 Construction of Selective Water Withdrawal tower begins in fall.
2009-2010 Selective Water Withdrawal tower construction is completed.
2009-2010 Tower is operational and downstream fish passage begins.
2010-2011 Adult salmon and steelhead should return above project.
2020 Final deposit is made to Pelton Round Butte Fund for a total of $21.5 million.
2054 Final year of license begins.

Agreement signing parties
American Rivers
Avion Water Company
City of Bend, Oregon
City of Madras, Oregon
City of Redmond, Oregon
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (joint license applicant and Indian tribal government)
Deschutes County, Oregon
Jefferson County, Oregon
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
Oregon Trout
Oregon Water Resources Department
Portland General Electric (joint license applicant)
The Native Fish Society
Trout Unlimited
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Water Watch of Oregon

This fact sheet was a collaborative effort of the communication staffs from the signing organizations. Contact: Steve Corson, PGE, 503-464-8444; Jim Manion, Warm Springs Power Enterprises, 541-553-1046.

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