Deschutes River Alliance Notifies Portland General Electric of Intent to Sue

On May 13, 2016, the Deschutes River Alliance (DRA) sent notification to Portland General Electric (PGE) of DRA’s intent to file suit for violations of PGE’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification for the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Complex.

The Section 401 Certification sets out water quality requirements agreed to by PGE during the dam licensing process and embodied in a document titled “Water Quality Management and Monitoring Plan” (WQMMP). The Section 401 Certification is a required component of the Pelton-Round Butte Complex’s operating license (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission License No. 2030).

PGE’s own water quality reports provide evidence of violations of temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH requirements at the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Project. The DRA has catalogued over 1,200 specific violations of the 401 Certification that have occurred since operations began at the Selective Water Withdrawal (SWW) Tower at Round Butte Dam on December 31, 2009.

Due to PGE’s lack of willingness to openly and meaningfully discuss and address these violations, and other issues, the DRA has been left with no alternative but to seek court-ordered enforcement of the law regarding the water quality requirements.

Further, DRA believes that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), the primary enforcement agency, has failed to demonstrate any inclination to enforce the terms of the Section 401 Certification. Rather than requiring changes in dam operations so as to comply with water quality requirements, ODEQ has deferred to PGE’s demands and facilitated a purported weakening of those requirements.

PGE’s water quality violations are a reflection of other water quality problems now manifested in the lower Deschutes River. SWW Tower operations have impacted water quality and insect and fish life throughout the ecosystem of the lower river below the dam complex. This magnificent river, its wildlife, and the economic well-being of communities along the river are in peril.

Round Butte Dam. Selective Water Withdrawal Tower and Fish Collection Facility is housed in the structure in the left of the photo. Photo by Greg McMillan

Round Butte Dam. Selective Water Withdrawal Tower and Fish Collection Facility is housed in the structure in the left of the photo.
Photo by Greg McMillan

The DRA has exhausted all other possible avenues of pursuit of these issues. We have met with PGE 25 times since March 19, 2013. Since that time, PGE has refused to acknowledge its ongoing violation of the water quality requirements in the WQMMP.

Our last effort included assembling the conservation groups who are signatories to the Pelton-Round Butte operating license. Collectively we met with PGE in December of 2015. Despite our efforts to continue the process, PGE has refused to meet with the combined group again.

The DRA has been, and remains, supportive of anadromous fish reintroduction above Lake Billy Chinook. We feel that by addressing the water quality violations caused by SWW Tower operation, the fish reintroduction effort can be strengthened while simultaneously improving the water quality of the lower Deschutes River.

The sixty-day notice of intent to sue letter is a required precursor to a citizen suit filed under the Clean Water Act. Read the whole letter here.

Pelton Dam is the second dam in the three dam complex that forms the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Complex Photo by Greg McMillan

Pelton Dam is the second of three dams that form the Pelton-Round Butte Hydroelectric Complex.
Photo by Greg McMillan

Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River. 

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