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OID seeks power permit

Ochoco Irrigation District reworks an old permit and makes application for a federal permit to generate electrical power at Bowman Dam
The days of high demand for electrical power, rolling blackouts and everybody scrambling to start up a generation plant may be yesterday's news. That isn't stopping a second entity from applying for a permit to use water behind Bowman Dam to run a power generation plant, though.
   In June, an Idaho company, Northwest Power Services, Inc. filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit to build a generation facility at the dam. Now officials of the Ochoco Irrigation District have also submitted their application.
   OID manager Russell Rhoden explained that the district had a permit for hydro generation at Bowman Dam but didn't have a need for it and let it expire. "We've updated the old plan a little bit and resubmitted it. We believe, as a municipality, we may have priority."
   Rhoden said his predecessor, Hugh Moore, has taken on the task of bringing the application up to date. Moore recently retired from the irrigation district, but has been helping out with a couple design projects including refiling the application.
   If the irrigation district's application was approved, Moore said the real work would begin. A feasibility study would have to be completed to determine how a generation plant would operate. Moore said that study would cost about $3,000 which has been included in next year's budget.
   Because OID is a non-profit organization, a separate utility district would have to be formed. The irrigation district can't be responsible to sell bonds or negotiate with customers, Moor pointed out. Once the feasibility study is finished, the utility district would have to go out and find someone to buy the power that would be produced. With a signed contract, bonds could be sold to pay for the actual construction.
   Like the Idaho company's proposal, Moore explained that the project would include the construction of a generation plant at the existing intake structure of the dam. A penstock would divert the water under pressure through the generation unit which would be located in a powerhouse below the dam.
   According to the permit application, three megawatts of power could be generated. That is enough electrical power to serve about 3,000 homes. The power would be transmitted byway of a transmission line to link up with Pacific Power transmission lines already in place.
   Once approved, Moore said, a preliminary permit is good for 36 months. "The feasibility study would be done in that time and it could turn out that it isn't feasible."
   It takes about six cents per kilowatt to produce power. That pays for the payback on the bonds as well as operation and maintenance costs. Power was selling for between three and three and a third cents when the permit was surrendered. "Now its selling for 45 cents at peak times and 15 to 25 cents at off peak hours. The price could be dropping again and it might turn out that the proposal wouldn't be a good thing."
   Anyone interested can learn more about the permitting process, and study the preliminary permit application on the Internet at www.ferc.fed.us.online/