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Swan Lake Pump Storage design

(Klamath) Tribes protest Swan Lake pumped storage project

Herald and News by Gerry O'Brien 11/1/16

The Klamath Tribes has filed a protest in opposition to the Swan Lake North pumped storage hydroelectric project because it would affect cultural and sacred resources in the Swan Lake Rim area.

In its Oct. 25 filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Tribes also claim that it did not receive timely notice to qualify as an intervenor against the project for most of last year.

The Swan Lake North project, located on the Jespersen Ranch, would take five years to build and create about 170 local construction jobs, proponents say. As many as 3,000 direct and related jobs could be created under the plan.

Pumped-storage is a “closed loop” electrical generating system. Proponents plan to build two reservoirs, separated by 1,600 feet in elevation, which use gravity to feed three turbines to generate up to 400 megawatts of electricity. When not in use, the water is pumped back from the lower reservoir to the upper.

Water will come from private, underground wells on the land, which should not affect the surface water rights. About 3,000 acre feet of water will be needed to fill a reservoir. In subsequent years, 420 acre feet will be needed annually to supplement the storage.

A 30-mile transmission line would be built from the site, crossing Bureau of Land Management and private land, to Malin to connect with the power grid.

The direct and related jobs created for the nine years of pre-construction and five years of construction are estimated at 170 for Klamath County and 1,270 for workers across Oregon. The cost of the entire project is pegged at just less than $1 billion. When operational, 11 workers will run the site, with 24 support jobs.

The Tribes protest letter claims the project “would severely affect the visual and aesthetic landscape as experienced from the Swan Lake Rim, which has been an important feature to the traditions of the peoples of the Klamath Tribes.”

The construction would disturb sacred stacked rock prayer sites and use of explosives during construction could panic wildlife, the protest letter said.

“We are following the FERC process for hydropower licensing and have additional archaeology to do in the field to inform FERC, ourselves and the Tribes as to what cultural resources might be present,” said Joe Eberhardt, hydropower director for EDF Renewable Energy of Portland, the project’s developer. “

There is additional archaeology investigations that need to be done, identify and potential cultural sites and register them as cultural resources.”

Once completed, the company plans to review the results with the Tribes for its input. It may take six to nine more months to complete that archaeology work, he said.

“We both are in need more information. Future study of the site will reveal that,” Eberhardt said.

The Tribes also noted that when FERC published its notice for intervenors and protests on Dec. 24, 2015, the deadline for filing a protest was Feb. 16, 2016.

The Tribes did not receive any direct communication from FERC about the notice, even though the project is within the traditional territories of the Tribes and just south of the border of the Tribes’ Treaty Reserved lands.

Tribes was also concerned about the 30-day comment period set last August after the public scoping meetings, claiming that FERC did not set up a “government to government” meeting to consult with the Tribes on scoping, thus violating its own policies.

If there are no delays, FERC could issue a 50-year license as early as March 2018. Bids would go out within nine months, and construction could begin in early 2019.


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