Fish-friendly fund marks $7.3M success in central Oregon

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The relicensing of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project in central Oregon led to the establishment of the Pelton Fund.

The relicensing of the Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project in central Oregon led to the establishment of the Pelton Fund.

After investing one-third of a $21.5 million seed fund set up to improve fish habitats and central Oregon economies, the fund’s operators are calling the experiment a success.

Offered to projects in the Deschutes Basin by Portland General Electric, the fund was established as part of the deal that relicensed the three-dam Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project. PGE co-owns the project with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon and the two have partnered on the Pelton Fund's creation and administration.

The effort has so far awarded $7.3 million to fish-friendly projects, 29 in all, and provided targeted funding for an area where habitat improvements traditionally compete for cash amid a larger pool of regional, state and national grants.

"It's important to have local money funding local projects," said Scot Turo, fisheries habitat program manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon.

The tribal government has completed three projects with cash from the Pelton Fund, including the popular Shitike Creek Restoration Project, a large stream restoration project on the reservation with habitat and flood plain improvements.

Turo said funding for such projects is typically pieced together from grants from several organizations, such as the Bonneville Power Administration, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others.

Now, he said, “The Pelton Fund is another key funder. And I’m not competing against people wide and far, I’m competing against my peers in the basin,” he said.

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Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.

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