Water Resource Development Act of 2022 Report to Congress on the Willamette Valley System

Detroit Dam sits on the North Santiam River, East of Salem, Oregon. Detroit Dam is one of the 13 dams in the Willamette Valley System and one of the 8 hydropower dams within the system.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is preparing a report to Congress as outlined in section 8220 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022.

USACE operates and maintains 13 multipurpose dams and reservoirs across Oregon's Willamette River basin. Congress authorized these dams for multiple purposes: flood risk management, hydropower, water supply, irrigation, water quality, recreation, fish and wildlife management, and navigation. Each dam serves the purposes set for it by Congress in authorizing legislation.

As a group, the 13 dams are operated as a system – the Willamette Valley System - to ensure that all purposes are served. Among its many important functions, the System is managed for flooding, minimum river flows, and water quality from Oakridge to Portland, Oregon.

Eight of the 13 dams are authorized by Congress to produce hydropower and include hydropower facilities. Section 8220 directs the Secretary of the Army to carry out a study, now being conducted by the Portland District, to determine the “federal interest” in continuing hydropower production in the Willamette Valley System. A “federal interest” determination looks at costs and benefits and environmental acceptability, along with other factors.

Specifically, the law says that the study should assess:

  • whether and how discontinuing hydropower production at one or more of the eight dams would affect how those dams, other dams in the system, and the system as a whole would be operated for their other authorized purposes;
  • how the costs of discontinuing hydropower would be apportioned; and
  • what impacts there would be on dam safety and compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

The report to Congress will be submitted by June 2024.

Public Info Session Presentation

View the presentation from the public information sessions.

Virtual Listening Session Presentation

View the presentation from the virtual listening sessions.

Willamette Valley Initiatives Brochure

Learn about the different Willamette Valley System initiatives and how they are related.

Public Information Meetings

Watch the public information sessions we hosted about the Willamette Valley System and the Section 8220 WRDA22 process.

September 13, 2023 Public Info Session

September 14, 2023 Public Info Session

Questions and Answers

1: Based on page 9, are hatchery fish supporting the recovery of those fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act?
The Willamette Project blocks a significant amount of the historic spawning habitat for spring Chinook salmon in the Willamette Basin, OR. That number varies between 70 to almost 100 percent in the South Santiam, North Santiam, and Middle Fork Willamette sub-basins. Improving the status of this species is dependent on accessing this historic habitat. Hatchery fish are being out planted into this historic habitat to reestablish populations where naturally produced fish are not available. These fish are critical for supporting the recovery of listed spring Chinook salmon.

2: When (year) was the RULE CURVE crafted and has it been modified since?
Rule curves are created at the time a dam is authorized to be constructed. The rule curves for Williamette Vallaey hydropower dams have not been modified.

3: Will the upcoming congressional update include potential modifications to the RC?
The initial assessment being performed by USACE, for the informational report, Phase I -Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress , assumes that future operating conditions at Willamette Valley hydropower dams, with or without hydropower production, will otherwise be substantially the same as at present. Modifications to rule curves will not be considered in this initial phase.

4: Are there opportunities to modify the late summer discharges (Detroit) to extend relational activities and improve economic benefits to the surrounding communities?
While not directly related to the informational Phase I Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress, during the conservation release season (including late summer) discharges from Detroit Dam are based on biological (fish) needs, e.g., water temperature and flow targets referenced in the 2008 Biological Opinion. This Phase I information report will not look at modifications identified in this question.

5: Will your report to congress include recommendations?
It will not provide recommendations but will include findings from the initial, high level assessment on Federal Interest in maintaining the hydropower purpose

6: What will happen to the reserved power pools, will the reservoir levels drop lower than the rule curve if not need to produce power?
Although the power pool storage is minimal, the former power pool storage would become inactive storage or be reallocated amongst the other authorized purposes.

7: How will anticipated climate change affect your analysis?
The initial assessment being performed by USACE, for the Phase I informational report to congress, assumes that future operating conditions at 13 Willamette Valley multi-purpose projects will be substantially the same as at present. Climate change-related effects will not be considered in this initial phase.

8: How will FERC be included in this analysis for the one hydropower dam they operate?
The Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) has been considered, there is one project, Dorena Dam, that has a hydropower unit licensed under FERC. However, the hydropower operations are an ancillary benefit afforded by a privately owned and operated facility under a FERC license. Dorena is only authorized for the purposes of flood control, irrigation, navigation, fish and wildlife, water quality, recreation, and water supply. Any hydropower generated by the privately owned unit is incidental and does not affect how the dam is operated for the authorized purposes. Therefore, the Dorena hydropower facility is not under consideration for hydropower deauthorization.

9: What is the relationship between USACE and BPA and is there a contract between them?
USACE is coordinating with BPA on the initial Report to Congress. There is no contract between the Corps and BPA for work associated with the Report to Congress.

10: Why is the PEIS a separate effort from this analyses?
The Willamette Valley System EIS was initiated in April 2018 and is a separate effort. Congress requested the USACE determine if there is Federal Interest in the Hydropower purpose in WRDA 2022 which was passed in December 2022. These two actions are on different timelines and are under different authorities.

11: Next steps after congress receives report?
Once the USACE has completed the Report to Congress, it will be submitted to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (OASACW) . Within 18 months of enactment of WRDA 2022, the OASACW) will submit the Report to Congress to the requesting Committees, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the Senate.

12: Will the Corps do a planning document if they decide to remove/reduce some of the hydropower?
Further assessment activity by the USACE, beyond the Phase I Ð Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress, will depend on any subsequent direction given by Congress and the Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

13: We are BPA’s second largest customer. We understand that this study is deauthorization of the Willamette hydropower plants. Does this mean decommissioning and removal as well? While we have not finalized our view on deauthorization, we do not think decommissioning makes sense. These plants are not particularly economic based on the current authorization levels, especially after the planned costs being considered. My question is whether the USACE and government would consider possible licensing alternatives similar to the current one plant that is an under a FERC license at Dorena. The Willamette hydropower plants do provide reliable carbon-free power. We think an alternative of something like a FERC license should be considered. Thank you.
The initial assessment being performed by USACE, for the Phase I -Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress, assumes that future operating conditions at Willamette Valley hydropower dams, with or without hydropower production, will otherwise be substantially the same as at present. FERC licensing of non-governmental hydropower producers will not be considered in this initial phase.

14: Will we be able to historical power generation by month by dam? Concerned about BPA having the ability to reach the full valley needs for peak demands for heat or cooling in evenings.
Regarding peaking, it should be noted that the Willamette dams contribute to the system as a whole and are not able to adjust to meet to real time changes in demand. Power Summary Reports are publicly available and can be found on the following page: www.nwd.usace.army.mil/CRWM/Hydro-Engineering-Power/

15: Some of the long-term studies I have reviewed by the USACE indicate possible changes to the precipitation patterns (more rain, less snow to simplify). What impacts, if any yet, are expected to rule curves for flood risk management? If changes are needed, what are the processes used by the USACE to modify operations?
The rule curve represents required storage needed to provided flood risk management. Generally the rule curves are not expected to change, however, the Portland District is starting a project called Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) to look at opportunities to manage the reservoir more adaptively given changing climate. For more information, visit: ;cw3e.ucsd.edu/firo/.

16: Will you accept WRITTEN comments at the listening sessions?
Yes, we will accept brief written statements at the listening sessions. Those who attend the in-person listening session but wish to provide written statements will be given a statement card or equivalent to submit their statements. Those who attend the virtual sessions can use the chat that will be monitored by the session coordinator.

17: As a County Commissioner, I am concerned about peak power needs being covered by remaining BPA power generation sources. Would we see brown outs?
Bonneville manages the entire Federal Columbia River Power System, which includes 31 federal dams and the output of the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant, as a single system. Bonneville customers are not dependent on any single dam or group of dams as the source of their electric power when all associated transmission facilities are in service. The Corps has noted specific operational considerations that apply to Hills Creek and Cougar dams in Lane County. Those issues are specific to the circumstances of those dams. Bonneville is currently working on estimating the mitigation required to reinforce transmission lines for system reliability in the Willamette Valley as a consequence of reduced generating capability directed by court order in the Endangered Species Act litigation for Willamette Dam operations.

18: Will there be a draft report upon which to comment?
A report to Congress is an informational report for Congress, not a decision document. The Secretary did not prescribe public review procedures for drafts of the Phase I Ð Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress and the WRDA 2022 language did not require USACE to make the report publicly available.

19: Is there a 2023-2024 plan to take Lookout down to the RO to help with juvenile passage? What is the plan to continue juvenile passage through Dexter?
While not directly related to this WRDA 2022 Report to Congress effort, in the fall of 2023, Lookout Point Reservoir will be drafted to El. 750 ft. (14 feet over the top of the regulating outlets gates) for improved downstream fish passage. This is an operation being carried out as part of the on-going Willamette Valley Project Injunction. While Lookout Point Reservoir is drawn down, continuous spillway operations will be carried out at Dexter Dam. For further information, please go to: www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Locations/Willamette-Valley/Injunction/

20: Ultimately, how is federal interest determined under WRDA22 if USACE has one view and BPA has another view? Who submits the report (USACE, BPA, joint, other?)
When complete, the Phase I Ð Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress will be transmitted to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASA(CW)) who will act on it within the authorities conferred on the ASA(CW) by the Secretary of the Army. The federal interest determination will consider four factors: national economic development, regional economic development, other social effects, and environmental quality. These criteria are defined in the Principles Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies (PR&G), Sec 2031 of WRDA 2007.

21: Deauthorization seems too narrow an examination of reducing hydro effects. For example, if the high head projects were permanently drawn down, a substantial modification of the powerplant would be possible to replace or bifurcate the penstock to drive a more fish friendly Kaplan style turbine. Is the Corps willing to consider changes in physical plant to make hydro less harmful?
The initial assessment being performed by USACE, for the Phase I -Willamette Basin Hydropower Report to Congress, assumes that future operating conditions at Willamette Valley hydropower dams, with or without hydropower production, will otherwise be substantially the same as at present. Changes to turbines are therefore not being assessed.

22: In a scenario with a deauthorized power producing dam, will there be any changes to the criteria for what determines the appropriate pool depth at any given time.
Due to the limited timeframe to produce a Report to Congress, the scope of this initial assessment assumes that operations at each dam under deauthorization scenarios would remain as close as possible to current operations meaning that changes to operations that significantly change pool depth are not being evaluated. If a federal interest in deauthorization is indicated a full Disposition Study would likely be indicated for which alternative pool elevations could be assessed.

23: Can generators replace the power redundancy of hydro?
Hydropower dams have three redundant means to supply electricity for onsite station needs: production of electricity via one or more hydropower generators, consumption of electricity imported from BPAÕs electric transmission grid, or use of onsite back-up emergency diesel generators. Collectively, these three independent sources of electricity provide a robust level of redundancy since critical facility and equipment functions can be sustained in the presence of events or failures that compromise any two of the three available electric power sources. The diesel generators installed at hydropower facilities are a vital part of the existing electric power redundancy risk mitigation portfolio, but challenges surrounding fuel sustainment and failure modes inherent to back-up generators cannot be mitigated to the same extent absent other independent sources of electricity such as hydropower.