FERC rejects permit app on 26-MW North Santiam Hydro project

Deciding it lacks authority over this site, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Dec. 23 that it can’t issue a permit or a license to North Santiam Hydro Power LLC for its proposed hydroelectric project at the Detroit Dam in Oregon.

So it dismissed North Santiam’s application for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of this project. On July 24, North Santiam filed this application for a preliminary permit on a hydroelectric project at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit Dam, located on the North Santiam River in Linn and Marion counties, Oregon.

The Corps’ existing Detroit Dam is a 1,524-foot-long, 463-foot-high concrete gravity dam. Currently, the Corps is operating two 50-MW turbine-generators at the site, for a total capacity of 100 MW.

The proposed project would use the existing 8-foot-diameter steel pipe, which passes through Detroit Dam, and consist of the following new features: an intake structure immediately upstream of the dam; a 200-foot-long, 8-foot-diameter steel penstock; a 60-foot-long, 40-foot-wide powerhouse; a 26-MW vertical-shaft Francis turbine; a 20-foot-long steel draft tube discharging into a concrete tailrace, returning flows to the North Santiam River; and a 0.5-mile-long transmission line interconnecting with the existing Detroit Dam substation. The estimated annual generation of the project would be 85 gigawatt-hours.

On Aug. 18, commission staff sent the Corps a letter with a preliminary jurisdictional determination, based on the authorizing statute and supporting documents, that the commission lacks authority to authorize hydropower development at the site. On Nov. 17, the Corps filed its response, agreeing with staff’s determination.

Noted the Dec. 23 order: “Commission staff and the Corps agree that hydropower development at Detroit Dam has been reserved for exclusive federal development, and the Commission thus lacks authority to issue a permit or a license to North Santiam for its proposed hydroelectric project at the Detroit Dam. Accordingly, its preliminary permit application is dismissed.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.