Reclamation issues draft EA for 7-MW Ridgway Dam hydro project

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo., U.S. 10/6/11 (PennWell) -- The Bureau of Reclamation seeks comments on a draft environmental assessment supporting a proposed federal Lease of Power Privilege to construct a 7-MW hydroelectric project at Ridgway Dam in Colorado.

A Lease of Power Privilege is a congressionally authorized alternative to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower licensing. It gives a non-federal entity authorization to use Reclamation-owned water or facilities for generation and sale of hydropower. Reclamation issued a similar draft EA in September for the 1.1-MW C-Drop project in Oregon.

Ridgway Dam of Reclamation's Dallas Creek Project was built on the Uncompahgre River in 1987 to increase water supplies for irrigation and municipal and industrial purposes, and to provide flood control. Water supplies are distributed through existing facilities or facilities constructed by the Tri-County Water Conservancy District or the water users.

If the draft is given final approval, Reclamation would issue the Lease of Power Privilege to Tri-County Water Conservancy District to build and operate the Ridgway Dam project.

The project would include penstocks, a powerhouse containing two horizontal Francis turbines, an .8-mile transmission line, and a substation to boost voltage for interconnection to the regional grid. The project is expected to generate an average of 22,600 MWh annually.

Construction is expected to require 14 to 18 months at a cost of $16 million. Funding is expected to come from low-interest loans of about $11 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority's small hydropower loan program.

Reclamation said the project would not have significant environmental effects and likely would improve water quality for a tailwater fishery. Upon completion of a final EA, an environmental commitment plan is to be drafted containing environmental commitments and mitigation measures.

The draft environmental documents may be obtained from the Reclamation Internet site under http://www.usbr.gov/uc/envdocs/ea/Ridgway/draftEA.pdf. Comments are due Nov. 1 to Carol DeAngelis, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 2764 Compass Drive, Suite 106, Grand Junction, CO 81506.

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