Locals munched on Subway sandwiches while Nicholas J. Loos, plant manager of PGE’s West Side Hydro Projects, spoke about the company during the chamber lunch forum June 20 at PGE’s Faraday office.

Loos gave an overview of the Clackamas Hydro Project, which includes the Faraday, North Fork, Oak Grove and River Mill power houses, six dams, the North Fork Reservoir, Timothy Lake, Harriet Lake, Frog Lake, Faraday Lake and Estacada Lake.

In a later interview, PGE spokesman Steven Corson said the Clackamas Hydro Project is “is a complex of hydroelectric facilities operated by PGE on the Clackamas that together have the capacity to produce up to 173 megawatts of power — enough to supply electricity to about 70,000 typical PGE residential customers.”

Loos spoke briefly about the history of the projects.

He said once the hydro-electric capacity of the Willamette had been exhausted, Portland General Electric, then a division of the Portland Railway, Light and Power Company, turned to the Clackamas River as a natural choice to build hydro-projects to supply enough power for the Portland streetcars in the early 1900s.

Loos told the lunch-goers that PGE received a license in 2010 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue operating the projects for another 45 years.

“Our goal is to provide reliable service to our customers in an environmentally responsible way,” Loos said.

He mentioned improvements made to Faraday Lake were part of the relicensing agreement.

Last year, the lake was temporarily drained while the company dug channels into the lake bed.

The channels allow the water to flow more quickly. This helps control the temperature of the lake on hot days, which will make the fish more comfortable.

In November 2012, the company finished construction of an adult fish sorting facility at North Fork. It’s now fully operational.

Prior to the construction of the facility, biologists had to net and hand-sort hatchery fish from native fish to make sure that only the native fish continued into the upper Clackamas River Basin.

The new facility’s off-ladder adult trap allows the biologists to separate the fish without handling them at all — they simply push a button.

“This will allow wild fish to complete their life-cycle journey with minimal human disturbance,” Corson said later. “Hatchery fish are still returned downstream or to the hatchery ... It’s a unique, state-of-the-art facility that should be much better for the fish.”

The facility was completed within a year. The project cost $4.3 million.

Loos went on to discuss the “last major project” required by the relicensing agreement.

PGE is planning the construction of a North Fork surface collector.

The project aims to improve fish passage and environmental conditions in the river.

“The surface collector will float on the surface of North Fork Reservoir above the North Fork Dam, and will use pumps to create a surface current that will attract downstream migrating juvenile fish into a large V-screen, where they will be safely captured in a transport pipe and conveyed through the dam to enter a newly-completed downstream fish pipe and safely travel seven miles to the River Mill Dam tailrace, where they’ll be released to continue their migration downstream,” Corson explained.

This is the single largest project required by the FERC license.

Construction is set to begin at the close of the 2013 recreation season and to be completed in 2015.

During the lunch forum, chamber leaders expressed trepidation over the project’s potential effect on recreation in the area.

Loos noted that bids on the project have not yet been finalized.

Corson later explained that as PGE does not yet have the contractors’ “detailed construction plans,” he can’t yet say which facilities at North Fork Reservoir and Promontory Park will be affected and when.

“Unfortunately, space for staging and constructing this facility is very limited, so there is no way to complete the project without having an impact on this popular recreation area,” Corson said. “We’re very mindful of that, and will work with the contractors to make sure that the disruption is as limited as possible as we work to fulfill our license obligations.”

Corson said PGE deliberately waited until improvements were made and recreation reopened at Faraday before beginning work on North Fork.

During the construction of the North Fork surface collector, Faraday Lake, along with Estacada Lake, Harriet Lake and Timothy Lake, will remain open.

Promontory Park will be closed for a period during the construction. However, Corson said that PGE will use the opportunity to improve recreational facilities at the park.

He also suggested that the North Fork surface collector construction project could boost the local economy.

“On the plus side, this also means that a major construction project will be operating in the area for a two-year period, with resulting potential for benefit to local businesses,” Corson wrote.

During the lunch forum, PGE officials promised that the company will communicate with city leaders to let them know how recreation will be affected.

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