News: Hydropower

Columbia River salmon plan challenged

By: Staff
The Spokesman-Review

Conservation groups and fishing interests have challenged the federal government’s latest plan for making Columbia River dams safe for salmon runs.

The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland against NOAA Fisheries Service, which oversees salmon protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the dams.

Joseph Bogaard of Save Our Wild Salmon says the plan is “virtually indistinguishable” from the one overturned by a federal court three years ago. He says efforts to develop a better plan through collaboration, rather than litigation, were rebuffed. Read more

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Studies question budget for purchase of PPL Mont. dams

By: Marc Stergionis
Great Falls Tribune

There’s been a flood of documents washing into the Public Service Commission over NorthWestern Energy’s agreement to purchase PPL Montana’s 11 electricity-producing dams.

Some of those documents — recent consultant and agency analyses — spark big questions among consumer advocates and, although they may not short-circuit the deal, they are raising temperatures on both sides of the issue as the PSC gears up to make a decision on the purchase. Read more

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Army Corps of Engineers to kill 16,000 cormorants on East Sand Island in Columbia River Estuary

By: Rob Davis
The Oregonian

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans Thursday to shoot and kill 16,000 double-crested cormorants on an island near the Columbia River’s mouth starting next spring, in an effort to improve survival of endangered juvenile salmon and steelhead.

 The cormorants, black seabirds increasingly nesting on East Sand Island, feed on juvenile fish swimming out to the Pacific Ocean. They’ve been eating those migrating smolts in growing numbers, enough that scientists say it’s impacting the species’ survival rates.

The Army Corps, which manages hydropower dams throughout the Northwest, aims to kill about 20 percent of the cormorant population on East Sand Island each year. Read more

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Prior agreement to phase out Centralia coal plant will cover most emissions reductions

A sweeping new White House plan to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s energy supply may have less impact on Washington than almost every other state. But that’s because the country is just now catching up.

By: Craig Welch
The Seattle Times

You could argue that Washington had it easier all along, with abundant rivers that provide cheap hydropower and an economy that didn’t depend on coal.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

Back in 2000, West Virginia, with half as many people, produced four times more carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity generation as Washington — almost all of it from that state’s politically powerful, jobs-producing coal industry.

While even West Virginia burns far more natural gas than it once did, its total CO2 emissions have merely stayed the same. Washington’s emissions during the same time dropped more than 20 percent and just keep falling.

In fact, Washington has made so much progress weaning itself from coal-fired energy that our state may well meet the Obama administration’s new climate goals by doing little more than maintaining the status quo. Read more

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New-age water wheels harvest hydrokinetic energy

By: Kate Prengaman
Yakima Herald-Republic

SELAH — Farmers across the Yakima Basin depend on a network of canals to deliver water for their crops. Now, scientists believe the canals could provide another resource to the region: renewable energy.

Capturing the energy contained in the water flowing in the Northwest’s rivers is nothing new — hydropower dams have been doing just that since the 1930s. But new turbine technology can create electricity without using dams or reservoirs, which carry environmental impacts.

A Canadian company is testing out a turbine in the Roza Canal, just south of the Yakima Canyon.

“We are creating power from moving water without the need for damming or diversions,” said Shannon Halliday, the director of business development for Instream Energy Systems. “The testing we’re doing in Roza will help us develop our next-generation technology.” Read more

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Energy firm pulls plug on Oregon wave-power project

The quiet shuttering of an ambitious Oregon project — the nation’s first grid-connected, commercial-scale wave park — is the latest setback for the nascent wave-energy sector in the United States.

By: Joshua Hunt and Diane Cardwell
The New York Times

PORTLAND — At the Port of Portland sits a 260-ton buoy filled with technology that can turn the movement of the ocean into electricity to power 100 homes. It rolled off an assembly line to great fanfare two years ago and received the nation’s first commercial license to operate.

It was to be the start of the closely watched follow-up to a failed attempt in the 1990s to harness the power of the Pacific Ocean, in which one of the first test-buoy generators quickly sank.

But this time around, the buoy did not even get that chance.

Its maker, Ocean Power Technologies, quietly abandoned the project last month without ever deploying its machine off the coast.

 

Despite receiving at least $8.7 million in federal and state grants, Ocean Power told regulators that it could not raise enough money to cover higher-than-expected costs and would instead pursue a similar project in Australia, backed by a $62 million commitment from that country’s government. Read more

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Dorena hydro project just may be water over the dam

By: Christian Wihtol
The Register Guard

COTTAGE GROVE — Dreams of clean energy from a new hydroelectric plant on Dorena Dam have turned into a financial nightmare for the project owner and the plant’s general contractor, new legal filings show.

Rather than seeing green, they are seeing red.

Under construction for nearly two years and originally slated to be done last June, the innovative, privately owned power plant still is not operating. It is many millions of dollars over budget, according to recently filed documents in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eugene. Read more

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Drawdown of Columbia River reservoir creates problems, opportunities

By: Becky Kramer
The Spokesman-Review

VANTAGE, Wash. – Mud, lots of mud, with a river flowing through it.

Anja Reynolds gaped at an unfamiliar Columbia last week as her husband, Dave, and their three kids stretched their legs at a park near the river’s edge. The Shelton, Wash., family had stopped for a break on the six-hour drive to Spokane.

The river no longer filled the gorge at Vantage from basalt cliff to basalt cliff. Vast mudflats stretched out to the water. A “no trespassing” sign warned the family to stay off the unstable shoreline.

“I’ve seen the river a lot,” Anja Reynolds said. “This is different.”

The reservoir behind Wanapum Dam has been drawn down since late February, to relieve pressure on a crack that developed in one of the concrete supports for the dam’s spillway gates. As they pass over the Columbia on Interstate 90, people are getting a glimpse of the river not seen since the dam’s reservoir filled in 1964. Read more

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Central Oregon hydro project acquired by Apple

By: The Associated Press
The Register Guard

BEND — Apple has acquired a hydroelectric project near the company’s new data center in Prineville.

Data centers use lots of electricity to power thousands of computers that hold digital information.

Company spokesman Chris Gaither told The Bulletin newspaper that Apple will not comment specifically on the deal, but it has made running its facilities on renewable power a priority.

The 45-Mile Hydroelectric Project was first proposed in 2010 by EBD Hydro of Bend.

EBD Hydro estimated the project would generate 3 to 3.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2,100 to 2,450 homes.

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Possible causes of Wanapum Dam crack narrowed

By: Nicholas K. Geranios
Associated Press

Pressure from the water behind Wanapum Dam may have contributed to the big crack that has disrupted operations at the structure, the Grant County Public Utility District said Wednesday.

The cause of the crack remains unknown, but the utility said it had ruled out four possibilities: seismic activity, foundation settlement, operation of spillway gates and explosions at the nearby Yakima Training Center operated by the U.S. Army.

Chuck Berrie, assistant general manager of the utility, said learning the cause could occur as soon as the next two or three weeks.

The 65-foot-long crack was detected by divers on Feb. 27, three days after a worker at the dam noticed that the top of a spillway pier had shifted slightly. When the reservoir behind the dam was drawn down by 26 feet, the pressure on the spillway was reduced and the fracture closed. Read more

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