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Oregon Indian reservation churning out hydro

A 20,000-kilowatt hydroelectric plant on Oregon's Deschutes River is the first federally licensed plant on any Indian reservation.

The $30 million hydro plant is next to the Pelton Dam, built and operated by the Portland (Ore.) General Electric Company to maintain a constant river flow on the Deschutes downstream from the dam. The new power plant will be operated in the tribes' interest by Portland General Electric.

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Power generated by the hydro plant is being sold, under a 20-year contract, to Pacific Power & Light Company in Portland. It will bring the tribes as much as $100 million over the life of the contract. Annual output of the plant will be from 80 million to 120 million kilowatts.

The new plant, and a smaller one at the tribal sawmill, will produce power each year equal to 200,000 barrels of oil. Sawmill wood waste is the fuel in the sawmill power plant.

Authorized by a tribal vote in May 1979, the hydro plant was dedicated little more than a year after the start of construction in June 1981. At the dedication , Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh called the plant a realization of the ''vision of the tribal leadership.''

Kenneth L. Smith, assistant secretary of the interior for Indian affairs and former general manager of the Warm Springs Confederation, read a telegram from President Reagan which declared the tribes were ''doing a better job of managing your affairs than the federal government.''

Mr. Smith also said that ''tribes on other reservations can see what you have accomplished, and be encouraged.'' Like Warm Springs, they too ''can aim high,'' he said.

Financing of the $30 million project came from a tribal appropriation of $10 million, a bank loan of $15 million, and a federal loan for $5 million.

All indebtedness incurred in the construction of the plant will be completely paid off, from revenues on the sale of power, by the year 2000. The confederation will then own and operate the plant free and clear, with funds from power sales after 2000 going to finance other tribal projects.

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At the dedication, Robert W. Moench, senior vice-president of Pacific Power, presented tribal chairman Delbert Frank with the first check for purchased power , in the amount of $161,342.

The heart of the hydro plant is of foreign origins. From the Voest-Alpine Company of Linz, Austria, has come the $2.5 million horizontal bulb-type turbine. In operation, water flowing along and around the bulb activates a propeller. Spinning of the propeller, whose blades are adjustable, powers the rotating units of the generator to produce electricity.

The $3 million generator is a product of the Hitachi Company of Japan.


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