North Umpqua Hydro Project Relicensing

Let the Mighty River Flow!


Check out Earthjustice's very informative web page on this issue:

And thank you, Earthjustice!


February 10, 2004

ROSEBURG, OR - In response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) license for the North Umpqua Hydro-electric Project on the North Umpqua River in the Umpqua National Forest, nine conservation groups represented by EarthJustice have requested a rehearing of the license issued by FERC on November 17, 2003.

This project includes 8 dams, reservoirs, powerhouse complexes, over 30 miles of flumes and canals, 6 miles of penstocks and tunnels, and approximately 100 miles of project-related roads. The project is owned and operated by PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Scottish Power located in Scotland.

Penny Lind, executive director of Umpqua Watersheds said, "On behalf of Umpqua Watersheds, I am pleased to exercise our right to request the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider the shortfalls of this 35 year license. PacifiCorp has taken advantage of this mighty river and their old license for decades. The beauty and wonder of the North Umpqua are too precious to manage incorrectly; the Forest Service's own scientists found that Soda Springs dam must be removed to protect its important values for fish, wildlife and people. The signers of the settlement agreement by government agencies and the corporation repeatedly ignored that information."

Legal council for the nine groups, Kristen Boyles of EarthJustice, stated, "This request for rehearing is an administrative action that will preserve citizens' rights to seek judicial review in the future."

"We are only seeking balance; we believe we can have hydropower and a healthy river but not with the current license that ignores the most significant problem, leaving in Soda Springs dam [1 of 8 dams on the project]," said Ms Lind.

The conservation groups making the official request for rehearing are: American Rivers, Umpqua Watersheds, Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, Steamboaters, The North Umpqua Foundation, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Pacific Rivers Council, Oregon Trout, and WaterWatch of Oregon.


CONTACTS: Penny Lind, Umpqua Watersheds, Roseburg, OR 541-672-7065
  Kristen Boyles, EarthJustice, Seattle, WA 206-343-7340 x33

Link to media article

03/21/02: To understand some of the history and complex issues, read this article similar to what was published in the Sierra Club's Oregon Chapter "Conifer" newsletter written by Umpqua Watersheds' very own Mike Piehl.

North Umpqua Hydro
Project in a Nutshell

written by Mike Piehl
March 2002
The North Umpqua River begins at Maidu Lake near the Cascade crest and ends at its confluence with the South Umpqua about 6 miles west of Roseburg. It is one of the most beautiful rivers in the Pacific Northwest, and was designated by Congress as a "Wild and Scenic River" in 1988. In the 1930's, the famous western author Zane Grey wrote that it was the best steelhead river in the US. Unfortunately, it has had to endure the effects of nearby clear-cut logging, road building, and eight dams that were constructed between 1947 and 1956. These eight dams are part of the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project (NUHP) whose 50-year license expired in 1997.

The NUHP is located in the Umpqua National Forest about 60 miles east of Roseburg. The 185-megawatt project produces enough power to supply electricity for approximately 100,000 families. The project generates power by using water taken from the North Umpqua River and two of its major tributaries. Unfortunately, more than 95% of the water available in the river can be diverted into pipes or canals for power generation--dewatering 37 miles of river and seriously disrupting the riverine ecosystem. In addition, flows are "ramped" daily to match the demand for electrical power. This can wash away eggs and insect larvae, disturb aquatic lifecycles, and strand fish to die in pools heated by the sun. All dams, including Soda Springs and Slide Creek dams, the furthest downstream dams in the project, were constructed without fish ladders. Both dams block anandromous fish from important spawning and rearing habitat. Historically, chinook and coho salmon and steelhead migrated 6.6 miles upstream past Soda Springs and Slide Creek dams to Toketee Falls, a natural obstruction, and at least 3.2 miles into Fish Creek until a boulder obstruction was reached. Historical evidence suggests that steelhead may have been able to swim through this obstruction during spring runoff conditions--if so, as much as 40-50 miles of additional habitat is available.

The elimination of habitat by these two dams has reduced wild fish populations in the entire North Umpqua River. The headwater areas are extremely valuable to the viability and production of the anadromous fish populations, which include Chinook salmon, steelhead, Coho salmon, cutthroat trout, and Pacific lamprey. The dams have also eliminated the nutrients that the salmon and lampreys bring from the ocean when they return to spawn and die in their natal streams. This "nutrient pump" is extremely important to the health of the headwaters riverine ecosystem, and thousands of species are dependent÷everything from tiny insects, to fish and birds, and large mammals. The Oregon coast Coho is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has designated the Pacific lamprey as a candidate species for listing, and the coastal cutthroat and steelhead are under review.

In June 2001, several state and federal agencies negotiated a politically-motivated "Settlement Agreement" with PacifiCorp, the project's owner and subsidiary of a foreign-owned company--Scottish Power. It was negotiated without public participation and contains many flaws including a failure to accomplish what is clearly the single-most effective action for restoring the North Umpqua River÷removing Soda Springs Dam. The agreement does propose to install a fish ladder only at Soda Springs Dam. But a fish ladder has significant problems compared to complete removal of the dam. The reservoir behind the dam inundates large gravel beds that could be used for spawning. It also contains a large brown trout population, exotic predators that feed primarily on fish - most likely the juvenile salmon and steelhead that must pass through the reservoir on their way to the ocean. The dam blocks nutrients, as well as sediment (gravel) transport that has left much of the riverbed below the dam solid bedrock with greatly reduced quantity and quality of spawning habitat. The screens proposed to prevent small fish from being forced through the generators are only partially effective and will result in fish losses. These losses could be substantial, and although direct mortality can be measured, indirect and delayed mortality are impossible to measure.

The "Settlement Agreement" ignores the findings of the Cooperative Watershed Analysis, which was completed in March 1998, followed by a recommendation from the Forest Supervisor's Office÷both recommended removal of Soda Springs Dam. The damage that the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project does to the river and its surroundings is serious and extremely complex - this article simplifies the NUHP's effects and primarily considers only the effect of Soda Springs Dam. A new project like the NUHP would not be acceptable given the environmental ethic and laws of the 21st century. Why shouldn't its re-licensing be held to the same standards?

The following conservation groups have joined to support removal of this dam--Umpqua Watersheds, The Steamboaters, The North Umpqua Foundation, Umpqua Valley Audubon, Oregon Trout, The Native Fish Society, Trout Unlimited (Oregon Council), WaterWatch of Oregon, Pacific Rivers Council, American Rivers, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Earthjustice Legal Defense Council, and the Sierra Club (Many Rivers Group). More groups are expected to join.

Based on information filed by PacifiCorp with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the NUHP produces power at a total cost of less than 1 cent/KWh. This power has a wholesale value of at least 3 cents/KWh. The 2 cent/KWh profit on the NUHP power is worth $20 million/year to PacifiCorp. With Soda Springs Dam removed, the project would lose only 7% of its capacity, and the NUHP would still be a very low cost power producer.

Currently, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is being prepared by FERC in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The DEIS is expected to be released in late March 2002 followed by a public comment period. The license term proposed in the "Settlement Agreement" is 35 years. Your comments are important--after the project is re-licensed, it will be too late!

by Mike Piehl, March 2002

06/15/01: Penny Lind's Guest Editorial in the local newspaper
03/01/01: Recent history
11/28/00: Steamboaters web page with more info on the Hydroelectric Project. (offsite)

Guest Editorial
North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project Re-licensing Agreement
by Penny Lind, Executive Director, Umpqua Watersheds
published on 6/15/01

Let's not get too carried away by the Governor and the power industry's press parade for the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project agreement signing this week by representatives from everywhere but the Umpqua.

We still have a long way to travel before this re-licensing process returns its own power to this mighty river. You only have to look at the long list of changes in the agreement's summary, (, to get a taste for how overdue necessary protections are for the Umpqua. This river has waited a long time to gain back some of its historic reputation. Quite frankly, it's yet to be seen that this agreement can do that.

I do agree with the Governor that improved and increased energy is a good thing and that moving the re-licensing process along is a valuable goal. However, this public resource will not get another chance at recovery and protection for decades to come. That's why conservationists are cautious about this agreement drafted behind closed doors with no public representation.

Granted, the parties have had a difficult time getting to where they are today. ScottishPower/PacifiCorp has been very effective at controlling the agenda, and delaying this process at the expense of the resource for nearly a decade. It has proved to be a great advantage for them and great timing with the energy climate filled with fear of cost increases, deregulation arguments, blackouts and the new administration's sympathy.

In the early 90s, thanks to the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society and other conservation partners, the original plans of the power industry to expand their operation and add increased demand on the mighty Umpqua were thwarted. About mid-way through these talks, the idea to develop the North Umpqua Cooperative Watershed Analysis became reality.

This peer reviewed, science-based document became the foundation to negotiations for all parties. When the Forest Service determined that removal of Soda Springs Dam would be a part of their recommendations for re-licensing, the power industry left the table. That bold walk has left all state and federal agencies in the retreat mode ever since.

How the Soda Springs Dam is treated in this re-licensing does have some of the greatest effects on the North Umpqua, however, the canal covers, in-stream flows, ramping, erosion control, and fish passage throughout the project are all of great concern to conservationists. Up until now, we have only been able to review the limited public record. Now careful review of this agreement will begin. It will be in the many details that we determine how "innovative, historic, balanced, and victorious" this agreement is.

The claim that balance has been struck with this agreement appears to be displayed through dollars for access and continued use. ScottishPower/PacificCorp retains their generating capabilities, exports the energy to the highest bidder, not local residents, and the profits go to a multinational corporation. What a deal!

The dollars promised for environmental gains on these public lands are in fact a part of the Federal Power Act's re-licensing terms for hydroelectric power. If you play you pay and it's time for ScottishPower/PacifiCorp to do just that. The guidelines do not support dollars going to other river systems, like Rock Creek (off-site), unless all restoration avenues have been exhausted within the project (on-site).

Umpqua Watersheds does not support the state's plan to pour money into Rock Creek problems. Umpqua Watersheds still views Soda Springs Dam removal as the best possible outcome for the fish, the surrounding wildlife, and for the quality of the North Umpqua River.

The summary of the agreement states that "other science" was used, along with the peer-reviewed watershed analysis to bring the parties together on many controversial problems like fish passage, water quality, and restoration. Umpqua Watersheds has yet to see this "other science," or its peer review.

Conservationists appealed to the Governor and the agencies to take great care in compromising away the Umpqua's precious resources during the last few months of talks. We did that because this agreement signed by all the agencies, the power industry and our Governor will carry a great weight in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) re-licensing process. The "done deal" looms large on this one.

The public process begins now, as local citizens will be able to review the terms set forward by this agreement that will be sent to the FERC. It's about time! The tight confidentiality of this process for the last ten years has been a weight to bear for everyone, especially those not involved directly and for the resource thatâs had to wait for restoration. Unfortunately, it will still take years to get the re-licensing finalized.

Let's remember that the result of this re-licensing is not just about today and tomorrow; it's about the recovery from past resource loss and the future of our mighty river for decades to come.

Penny Lind, Executive Director
Umpqua Watersheds
(541) 672-7065

03/01/01: Download Umpqua Watersheds' final alternative proposal regarding relicensing.
02/21/01: Umpqua Watersheds' overview.
02/21/01: ODFW's Draft Memorandum of Understanding MOU. (offsite)
09/28/00: Stan Vejtasa's article below & more photos.

On March 1st, 2001, Umpqua Watersheds, along with our conservation partners, submitted a preferred alternative to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the re-licensing of the North Umpqua Hydro Project (NUHP).


1. Term of license of 30 years;
2. Removal of Soda Springs Dam;
3. Fish passage at Slide Creek after habitat is restored;
4. Restore and connect stream channels throughout the project;
5. Establish a "run of river" environment for this public land project site;
6. Construct and maintain canal covers throughout the project; and
7. Establish a restoration/mitigation trust fund and a dam decommissioning fund.

On February 16, 2001 the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission extended the public comment period to March 9, 2001 for Scottish Power/PacifiCorp (SP/PC) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) requesting waiver of fish passage at Slide Creek and four other dams within the North Umpqua Hydro Project (NUHP) site.

Umpqua Watersheds, along with other conservation groups, submitted written comments and gave public testimony on this important re-licensing process.The comment period has now expired, and we await further developments.

If you have any questions, please call Umpqua Watersheds at: (541) 672-7065.

03/01/01: Download Umpqua Watersheds' final alternative proposal.
02/21/01: Download Umpqua Watersheds' complete comments on the MOU.
The Draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can be found at the Oregon Fish & Wildlife's website. (offsite)

OCTOBER 9, 2000


Penny Lind, Umpqua Watersheds - 541-672-7065
Diana Wales, Umpqua Valley Audubon Society - 541-673-0696
Brett Swift, American Rivers - 503-295-0490
Ken Ferguson, Steamboaters - 541-440-6916
Doug Heiken, Oregon Natural Resource Council - 541-344-0675

ROSEBURG, OREGON: Conservationists who participated in two rounds of settlement talks for the re-licensing of the North Umpqua Hydro Project in the Umpqua National Forest have requested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) officially begin the environmental review process on this project.

Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, Umpqua Watersheds, Steamboaters, Oregon Natural Resource Council, and American Rivers have been involved in these negotiations since 1997.

Conservationists refuse to get into another round of closed talks that will provide PacifiCorp/ScottishPower more opportunities to avoid their responsibility to the Umpqua National Forest and to the renowned Umpqua River where they have had the privilege to operate their power generation facility. The North Umpqua Hydro project is entirely within the Umpqua National Forest in Southwestern Oregon. It includes eight dams and generating plants connected by 44 miles of canals and flumes about 60 miles east of Roseburg.

Penny Lind, Executive Director of Umpqua Watersheds, stated, "When this project was built electricity was scarce and salmon were abundant, today our laws require that public lands, including the rivers that run through them, are protected or restored to meet the habitat needs of fish and wildlife. Our laws also demand water quality standards be met to ensure clean, cool water will be provided today and into the future to meet community needs. It's time these laws were upheld, not avoided at the expense of the resource."

The North Umpqua Cooperative Watershed Analysis developed by PacifiCorp/ScottishPower will be the primary basis of an alternative that the conservationists will be submitting to FERC. They will also consider any legal options to move this process along.

Diana Wales, Umpqua Valley Audubon Society stated, "We are long overdue for the government agencies and PacifiCorp/ScottishPower to bring this process out into public view where broader participation can take place." Wales added, "It's time the agencies responsible for this public trust do their jobs, not figure out the easiest way for the corporation to be served at the expense of what the science shows is best for the fish, wildlife and the water."

The last round of talks expired without a settlement on September 30, 2000 after FERC granted a limited 120-day extension.

Lind added, "A lot of time and energy have been expended on this re-licensing with settlement that addresses the fish and wildlife and water quality losses throughout this whole project still far from resolution. Further delays are not acceptable."

"It's time for the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and Oregon Water Resources Department to make their required filings that will bring this project closer to compliance with today's environmental laws," stated Ken Ferguson of Steamboaters.

"PacifiCorps/ScottishPower walked out on the first round of talks in November 1999 because it wouldn't agree to removal of Soda Springs Dam which the watershed analysis proved would open up several miles of Fish Creek, prime habitat area for endangered salmon. The power company continues to expect the resource to pay the price. That's unacceptable to us and should be to the federal and state agencies. We need to get fish back into Fish Creek," Ferguson stated.

9/28/00: The following article was written by Stan Vejtasa, Ph.D.

North Umpqua Hydro Project Relicensing

The North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project (NUHP) is a 186 Mega Watt hydroelectric facility consisting of 8 dams with power houses and 37 miles of canals, flumes and tunnels. It is situated on Umpqua National Forest land in the upper North Umpqua watershed and was licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for 50 years of operation in 1946.

In 1995, PacifiCorp (now owned by Scottish Power), the owner of the project facilities, submitted a relicensing package with FERC to extend the operation another 30 years. In 1996, PacifiCorp commissioned a comprehensive watershed analysis (the Stillwater Report) that was completed in 1998. The project has operated on public land for over 50 years without environmental protections. As documented in the Stillwater Report and elsewhere, normal project operations have stranded and killed fish, while miss-operation and equipment failures have resulted in washouts that have carried one million cubic yards of sediment into the river (equivalent to 100,000 dump trucks full). Lake Lemolo, the main project reservoir, adds 3 to 5 degrees to the water temperature, which is already too high for anadromous fish. Soda Springs dam (11 MW), the smallest generator, being furthest downstream completely blocks fish passage to 8 miles of prime spawning habitat and prevents spawning gravels from replenishing the river downstream.

leaky canalAs part of the relicensing process, FERC encouraged all interested parties, including state and federal agencies, and non-government organizations (NGOs) to meet with PacifiCorp/Scottish Power to negotiate a settlement covering all facility and operational modifications required to meet current environmental laws. These negotiations began in 1998 and stopped in November 1999 when PacifiCorp walked out because the Forest Service settlement proposal included the removal of Soda Springs dam as a necessary step to satisfy the Aquatic Conservation Strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan. Dam removal was also strongly supported by the environmental groups (NGOs).

PacifiCorp implied that the removal of Soda Springs dam would make the project uneconomic. However, an economic analysis, completed in June 2000, of the project by an independent engineer familiar with utility generation and operations showed that the project was very profitable even without the benefits of Soda Springs dam generation and operation. That analysis pointed out that the power from the NUHP flows to all PacifiCorp's customers and that it does not just stay in Douglas County. All PacifiCorp customers have benefited from the project over the last 50 years. The analysis further showed that replacing the generation lost by Soda Springs dam removal would increase a PacifiCorp's customer utility bill by 0.09% or 9 cents for a $100 utility bill.

Warmsprings canal
After aonal pressure from FERC in the spring of 2000, PacifiCorp/ScottishPower requested that negotiations resume to try and agree on a comprehensive settlement by September 2000. Prior to the resumption of negotiations, PacifiCorp/Scottish Power directly lobbied state, federal and local agencies and elected officials to pressure the Forest Service to change its stance on dam removal. The negotiations resumed in July. The negotiations are covered by a confidentiality agreement so we cannot yet report on the progress. The NGOs include representatives from American Rivers, ONRC, Steamboaters, Umpqua Valley Audubon, and Umpqua Watersheds. There have been two-day meetings, mostly in Portland, every two weeks. The NGO volunteers have spent many hours preparing for and attending these meetings. Progress has been slow and the potential for a settlement agreement by September 30 is unknown. Delays economically benefit PacifiCorp, while the river, its watershed and fishery suffer. PacifiCorp/Scottish Power gets incredibly cheap power (less than one cent/kWh) from the project and all its relicensing expenses are accumulated and will be recovered with interest from the project once it is relicensed. PacifiCorp has no incentive to speed the progress and FERC will continue to grant one year extensions on the original license as long as the relicensing process continues.

Written by Stan Vejtasa Ph.D. has worked for Shell Oil, the Electric Power Research Institute (now EPRI), and SFA Pacific, an engineering and economic consulting firm. He has 25 years experience in process engineering and in economic and technical evaluation of power generation systems. He is an Executive Steward Member of Umpqua Watersheds and a representative for Audubon during the relicensing negotiations.