Carmen Smith Hydroelectric Project
Carmen Smith Hydroelectric Project
Location: Upper McKenzie River
Nearest Town: McKenzie Bridge, OR
Capacity: 114 MW
Date built: 1963
Licensed through: 2008

The Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project, located 71 miles east of Eugene on the upper McKenzie River is EWEB’s largest utility-owned power source.

Serving EWEB customers with low-cost electricity since 1963, Carmen-is operated as a peaking and load-following facility, generating enough power to supply 16,000 homes.

EWEB in 2008 submitted an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue to operate Carmen-Smith. The re-licensing application followed a collaborative agreement reached between EWEB and 16 state and federal agencies, Indian tribes, and environmental and recreation groups to make enhancements and other improvements as part of its new operating license.

The agreement calls for improved fish passage aimed at protecting bull trout and salmon populations as well as increasing year-round stream flows to improve spawning and rearing habitat throughout the project area. Habitat improvements for terrestrial species like elk, as well as recreational enhancements such as rebuilding the three campgrounds in the area and constructing new day-use sites were also part of the agreement.

At that time, EWEB had estimated it would spend an estimated $135 million on enhancements and mitigation measures related to the hydroelectric project. Since 2008, however, that price tag has climbed to about $180 million. Current and predicted future economic conditions in the electricity market have shifted significantly since 2008, making the project potentially uneconomical during the 50-year life of a new license. As a result, EWEB has embarked on an effort to create a different, less-costly outcome for Carmen-Smith.

In July 2015, EWEB requested a six-month delay in the issuance of a new license. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in August granted the delay to give the utility time to consider less costly alternatives and also to meet with the 16 parties subject to the collaborative enhancement agreement.