Deschutes County commissioners may decide to take another look at what should be included as a historic resource at the Cline Falls Power Plant west of Redmond.
The historical significance of specific structures at the site has been debated since a 100-year lease ended in February 2013 between PacifiCorp and the Central Oregon Irrigation District. The company operated the hydroelectric plant on the Deschutes River and leased surrounding land from the irrigation district.
The historic resource issue first arose when PacifiCorp began removing equipment and altering the plant after its lease ended with the irrigation district. The district filed a code enforcement complaint with the county stating that the company hadn’t filed the necessary permits to make changes.
Nick Lelack, director of the county community development department, requested the Deschutes County Historic Landmarks Commission review documentation of the historic structures at the plant because of ambiguous language and differing opinions. The commission decided the entire site should be considered a historic resource. PacifiCorp appealed that decision to county commissioners.
The County Commission decided in January 2014 that a wooden flume, which channels water with through raised walls, should be considered part of the designated historic resources at the site. The plant was constructed between 1907 and 1912.
PacifiCorp appealed the county’s decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. In August, the state board sent the issue back to county commissioners for reconsideration of a particular structure at the plant.
The County Commission has not said whether it will consider the historic resources again and issue another decision.
Cynthia Smidt , an associate planner with the county, said the issue has been put on the back burner for now as other ongoing land use disputes have taken precedence for both the county and irrigation district.
Historic resources are inventoried by Oregon counties and adopted into comprehensive plans under Goal 5, a statewide planning goal that provides protection and requirements for identified historic structures.
Deschutes County designated the Cline Falls Power Plant in 1992 to include the dam, penstock and powerhouse, which is where the flow of water is converted into electricity. The penstock is a gate and often enclosed pipe that regulates the flow of water into the powerhouse.
The definition of a penstock became the central issue for LUBA when it made its decision in August.
The irrigation district’s legal counsel presented a Merriam-Webster online definition of a penstock at a October 2013 public hearing. County commissioners agreed with the definition and decided to include the wooden flume as part of the pipe.
PacifiCorp argued that the penstock should be limited to the 96-inch diameter metal pipe and not include the flume.
LUBA found that the board’s decision and reliance on a Merriam-Webster definition of penstocks was flawed.
LUBA’s decision stated that the county needed to consider the term “penstock” within the context of language used in documentation for the historic resources. The state board also agreed with PacifiCorp, writing in the opinion that penstock is a technical term with a technical meaning in need of greater specificity than an online definition.
PacifiCorp wanted LUBA to interpret the term based on its presented definition. The state board wrote that the county should have another chance to consider how to define a penstock.
“While (PacifiCorp) advances a number of strong arguments in favor of its interpretation of that term, the term is sufficiently unusual that we conclude the county commissioners should have an additional opportunity to address (PacifiCorp’s) arguments in the first instance,” the LUBA decision states.
In July, the irrigation district sued PacifiCorp, alleging that the company violated its lease by leaving the site damaged and contaminated. A trial date has been scheduled for July 29. The irrigation district is asking for $12 million.
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