Subscribe Today! Please read: Readers of local content on the Herald and News website – – will require a subscription beginning today. For the first few months, non-subscribers will still be able to view 10 articles for free. If you are not already a subscriber, now is a great time to join for as little as $10/month!
8-30 swan lake hydro

A public hearing is planned for Sept. 26 to cover the draft environmental impact study for a proposed hydro-electric project northeast of Klamath Falls that would power 600,000 homes.

A long-planned hydroelectric power plant considered for construction near Klamath Falls is coming closer to fruition with the completion of a draft environmental impact statement, and planned public hearing in September.

The Swan Lake North pumped-storage plant, in development since 2009, is designed to include two large reservoirs connected by a pumping station that would utilize gravity to turn turbines as water is exchanged between the two reservoirs. Originally in development by EDF Renewable Energy, the project changed hands to Rye Development and GridAmerica last year under the joint collaboration Swan Lake Holdings LLC.

The proposed power plant would be located approximately 11 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, encompassing 730 acres of federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), as well as state and private lands. It is estimated to be able to produce enough electricity to power 600,000 homes, or approximately 1,187 gigawatt-hours annually.

Closed-loop system

Essentially a gravity-fed closed-loop water system, the Swan Lake plant would include two large reservoirs connected by three 14-foot wide tunnels at an elevation difference of 1,500 feet and a pumping station to return water back to the upper reservoir. Each reservoir would incorporate spillways on each embankment’s crest for drainage. At the lower reservoir would be a powerhouse with three 131.1 megawatt reversible pump-turbine units, a substation, access road, transmission lines and support facilities. The power generated would connect to the Malin substation on Pacificorp’s electrical grid.

Each reservoir would be filled with groundwater and doesn’t connect with any other surface water body. Any additional water that may be needed would be added via local groundwater agricultural pumping systems.

An environmental analysis and open comment period of the proposed project began last December, the results of which are now available via a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) following review of the application license by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The draft EIS encompasses staff analysis of potential environmental impacts as a result of the project. The application license review process has concluded that “with appropriate environmental protective measures it would not constitute a major federal action that would significantly affect quality of the human environment.”

Public hearing set

With the draft EIS now completed, a public hearing is being planned for 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the Mt. Mazama Room at Oregon Tech. The hearing is an opportunity for resource agency personnel and residents to review the draft EIS and project plans, and submit verbal or written comments for the public record.

Comments can also be submitted online using the eComment system at The draft EIS is available to view online at using the eLibrary link and searching for docket number P-13318. For assistance contact FERC Online Support at or call 866-208-3676. The comment period will remain open through October, with a final EIS expected by the end of the year.

The project is estimated to begin construction in 2019 and be operational by 2023. Licensing by FERC can take around three years to complete, and filling both reservoirs for sufficient water transfer to generate power is expected to take an additional two years.

Construction is estimated to create 3,363 equivalent-jobs through development and construction, and provide at least 30 jobs in its operation. Swan Lake is expected to be operational for 45 years.

email @kliedtkeHN