Ochoco Irrigation's request for Bowman Dam fish passage waiver rejected

October 9, 2020
Ochoco Irrigation's request for Bowman Dam fish passage waiver rejected

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to deny a fish passage waiver for Bowman Dam in a split 5-1 vote at their meeting Friday, after testimony from 28 people both for and against the project.

The waiver request was made by the Ochoco Irrigation District for its proposed hydroelectric project to be located on Bowman Dam, near Prineville on the Crooked River.

State statutes require that new hydroelectric projects provide fish passage and that other fish and wildlife concerns are addressed. Fish passage waivers may be granted provided the requester undertakes other projects to provide a net benefit to native migratory fish as compared to passage at the triggering obstruction.

In their deliberations, commissioners said they recognized the benefits of the proposed mitigation package, but that additional mitigation measures are necessary.

Ochoco Irrigation District partnered with the city of Prineville and Crook County for the Bowman Dam hydro project, which they said "will benefit the community while positioning themselves for long-term sustainability."

The involved agencies said the hydro project has an estimated cost of $15 million -- but fish passage would add an estimated $40 million to the cost, making the small-hydro project infeasible.

The commission chose to deny the waiver (as recommended by the Fish Passage Task Force and ODFW staff), agreeing that Ochoco's proposed mitigation does not provide adequate benefit.

In other action, the commission also made changes to the rules for Wildlife Control Operators which add wild turkeys to the list of species these private businesses can address. Turkeys can cause damage and be a nuisance in urban and suburban areas.

Under the new rules, WCOs will be able to address wild turkey complaints under certain constraints. For example, WCOs will be able to remove turkeys causing property damage or being aggressive and salvage the meat for donation, or potentially release turkeys to ODFW-approved locations.

The commission was also briefed on monitoring and management of wild steelhead on the Oregon coast, the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program and wildlife connectivity issues in the state.

The meeting was livestreamed and the video is available at ODFW's YouTube Channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/IEODFW

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