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Relicensing the Portland Hydroelectric Project: Fact Sheet

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The Portland Hydroelectric Project (PHP) is operated by the City of Portland and has reported to the Portland Water Bureau since 1989. The PHP operates hydropower facilities in the Bull Run Watershed. The Bull Run Watershed is a highly protected watershed that serves as the primary drinking water supply in Portland and surrounding communities. It is a tributary to the Sandy River, which flows to the lower Columbia River in northwest Oregon.

Illustration of Bull Run Watershed showing Headworks Treatment Facility, Reservoir and Dam 2, Reservoir and Dam 1, and Bull Run Lake.
The PHP is located about 25 miles east of Portland in the Bull Run Watershed.

The PHP generates enough electric power to supply approximately 10,000 homes in the region. Operating facilities include two powerhouses located below Bull Run Dam 1 and Dam 2, as well as associated infrastructure and 10 miles of power lines.

Water supply operations and associated regulatory requirements take priority over hydropower generation. Hydropower generation is a supplemental benefit of operating the water supply system.

View from the top of Dam 1.
Roman Johnston

The PHP operates under a hydroelectric project license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in February 1979 that expires in 2029. To continue operating the PHP, the City must submit formal pre-application documents and a notice of intent to relicense to FERC no later than February 2024. The City is proposing to continue current operations as part of the relicensing process.

The relicensing process is expected to take 5 years and involves numerous engagement opportunities for agencies, Tribes, and other interested parties.

PHP quick facts

  • 2 powerhouses
  • 10 miles of power lines
  • ~10,000 homes served

City’s goals for relicensing

The City’s goal for the relicensing process is to obtain a new license for the PHP that allows the City to continue to provide excellent and reliable drinking water while generating clean energy. With a new license, the City seeks to maintain effective and efficient operations that center the City’s environmental and fiscal responsibilities. With this project, we aim to support the vitality of our community today and into the future.

As co-managers of the Bull Run Watershed with the U.S. Forest Service for over 100 years, the City has a wealth of data and information to inform the relicensing process. Through the relicensing process, the City will strive to collaborate with state and federal agencies, Tribes, and other interested parties to review this information and identify potential information gaps, questions, or other issues early in the relicensing process.

Relicensing process

The City will use the Integrated Licensing Process (ILP), FERC’s default process. The ILP is a highly structured regulatory process that provides consultation and engagement opportunities for agencies, Tribes, and other interested parties throughout the process in order to inform the development of the City’s license application to FERC.

Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)

Salmon swimming in the Bull Run River.
Bruce Zoellick, Bureau of Land Management

The Bull Run Water Supply Habitat Conservation Plan outlines the environmental stewardship commitments the City must follow to operate the drinking water system. The HCP is a 50-year regulatory agreement that describes the City’s work to protect and improve aquatic habitat to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. The PHP follows all applicable HCP requirements.

Anticipated Timeline (subject to change)

  • January 2023-December 2023: Pre-Application Document (PAD) developed
  • December 2023: PAD and Notice of Intent submitted to FERC; start of Integrated Licensing Process
  • January 2024-March 2024: Public comment period on PAD, scoping meeting, and study requests to FERC
  • May 2024-August 2024: Proposed Study Plan (PSP) filing and public comment period on PSP
  • September 2024: Revised Study Plan (RSP) and public comment period on RSP
  • October 2024: FERC issues study plan determination
  • October 2024-January 2025: Formal study plan dispute resolution process
  • January 2025-November 2026: Study and comment period
  • October 2026-December 2026: Draft License Application (DLA) filing and public comment period on DLA
  • February 2027-July 2027: Final License Application (FLA) filed and public comment period on FLA
  • May 2027-December 2028: Environmental analysis
  • February 2029: License order issued

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