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U.S. utility awards $69 million contract to upgrade 72-MW Box Canyon

Pend Oreille Public Utility District has awarded a $69 million contract to VA Tech Hydro for replacement runners and other equipment to upgrade the 72-MW Box Canyon project.

The work is to increase capacity by 18 MW at the project, on the Pend Oreille River near Ione, Wash.

The district's board of commissioners approved the award in June to VA Tech Hydro, which will replace four original vertical turbine runners with �fish friendly� models expected to allow increased flows to reduce total dissolved gas and benefit fish.

The contract also calls for VA Tech Hydro to rewind generators, replace governors, and upgrade excitation equipment. Turbine and equipment automation capabilities will be added.

The first new turbine is scheduled for installation in 2009 and 2010, followed by one each year for the next three years. All four units are to be commissioned by March 11, 2013, to meet Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirements.

Once the turbine and generator upgrade program is complete, Box Canyon's new total installed capacity will be 90 MW.

FERC issued a relicense order for the project (No. 2042) in 2005. It later denied the district's request to stay the new license, despite the PUD's argument it would lose more than $2 million before it could challenge disputed terms in court.

However, in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered a stay pending appeal for several conditions of the relicense. The court's order placed a hold on implementation of fish passage, and trout assessment and restoration work.

The motion for stay contended the relicense order included unreasonable and burdensome conditions. The motion also stated the stay was necessary to avoid irreparable injury to the district, customer Ponderay Newsprint, and the local economy.

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