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Central Oregon's Geothermal Project Picking Up Steam

In Central Oregon, the quest to harness geothermal heat deep below the ground is picking up steam.  The Bureau of Land Management has just published an Environmental Assessment for a geothermal exploration southeast of Bend.  

Glass Buttes

Glass Buttes

Courtesy Oregon Natural Desert Association

Nevada-based Ormat Technologies plans to drill a number of test wells to gauge the geothermal potential of the obsidian-covered lands known as the Glass Buttes.  But, the project had raised concerns from a number of groups. 

Back in 2008, the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association told the BLM it was concerned about the project’s overlap with a proposed wilderness study area, as well as its effect on sage grouse habitat. 

Lithic scatter

Lithic scatter

Courtesy Oregon Natural Desert Association

The project has also raised the objections of Oregon tribes. Both the Klamath and The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs consider the Glass Buttes area to be “sacred and holy.”

Sage grouse

Sage grouse

Courtesy Oregon Natural Desert Association

But in issuing what’s called a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” the BLM found tribes failed to provide a method to quantify or mitigate any damage to the area.

And on the sage grouse question, the BLM found Ormat’s plan would improve more habitat that it disturbed.

A public comment period runs through May 19.   

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