Bend Bulletin: Prineville Reservoir dam to be wild and scenic no more

February 26, 2016
In The News

Prineville Reservoir dam to be wild and scenic no more
BLM action shifts boundary for wild, scenic portion of Crooked River

Effective Monday, the section of the Crooked River that was designated Wild and Scenic will no longer include the Arthur R. Bowman Dam, a man-made earthen structure that created the Prineville Reservoir.

The boundary for the stretch of the river designated wild and scenic will shift one-quarter mile downstream, at least it will if notice of the change gets published Monday in the Federal Register as scheduled, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Moving that line will likely open the gates for hydropower development, and it will mean more water from the reservoir for Prineville.

Active efforts to generate electricity at the dam stretch back at least 15 years. But they couldn’t advance while the dam remained partially within the wild and scenic river boundary. Hydropower is not allowed on wild and scenic rivers.

The BLM considered moving the line in the early 2000s, but in 2008 the agency decided it needed to wait until the Bureau of Reclamation studied potential safety upgrades to Bowman Dam.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, introduced legislation in Congress to change the boundary in 2011. It passed the House three times before finally passing the Senate and being signed into law in December 2014, according to a news release from Walden’s office. It took about 14 more months for the BLM to enact it.

“Making this change paves the way for the development of clean, renewable hydropower at the dam and about 50 construction jobs in Central Oregon,” Walden said in the news release. “Over 14 months ago, Congress unanimously approved legislation to do just that, but the BLM hasn’t implemented the law until now. Implementing this legislation is good news for Prineville and Central Oregon as a whole, and I’m pleased the agency has finally heard the calls to get this done.”

And because the boundary change stems from congressional action, it’s not subject to protest or appeal, the BLM said.

“As far as we’re concerned,” Prineville District Manager Carol Benkosky said Thursday, “this is a done deal.”