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US tribes work to keep hydro options open

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, an aboriginal group, are currently pursuing two courses of action regarding the future of the Pelton–Round Butte hydroelectric project on the Deschutes river in Oregon, US. The tribes are continuing their work toward acquiring the federal licence to own and operate the entire hydro project, the majority of which is currently owned and operated by Portland General Electric (PGE). At the same time, the tribes are negotiating with PGE officials in an effort to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides, and leaves the operating licence with PGE.

Recently, the tribes have released their proposed application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for public comment. Tribal officials will take any comments into consideration, make changes to the application as necessary, and then develop the final application.

PGE, meanwhile, is working on a separate licence application. A final application is expected to be submitted to FERC at the end of the current year.

While both PGE and the tribes are applying for the same licence, both parties are hoping that a compromise can be worked out.

Under the current arrangement the tribes receive payment from PGE of between one-third to one-half of the value of the energy produced by the Pelton and Round Butte dams on an annual basis. For the year 1998 this payment amounted to more than US$10M.