If a preliminary permit approved this week by federal regulators gets final authorization, Utah State University will be allowed to construct a small hydroelectric plant on Logan River's First Dam.

Richard Strong, an engineer in the USU campus planning office, said Friday that one power plant is already on the university-owned dam, producing about 600 kilowatts of power.The proposed plant, to be located within 8,000 feet of the dam, will have a capacity of 800 kilowatts.

Strong said that while the amount of power is small, it would reduce the annual cost of power the school buys from Logan City.

Three years ago, Logan filed an application for what would have been a joint hydroelectric plant with USU at the dam. But Strong said a permit was allowed to lapse when it was learned the city's proposal was not financially feasible.

"The project we have in mind is smaller, because there is not much water in the river nine months of the year, so the payback has to be over a three-month period," he said.

The comment period for the project extends until March 12, and Strong said it could take three years to complete the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process.

"During that time, we will come up with a final design that will be predicated upon the flow of the river and also complete repairs to the deteriorating dam, which was built between 1911 and 1913," he said.

The Utah Legislature has appropriated $500,000 for repairs on First Dam to correct problems with its seismic structure and deal with flooding downstream.

"The latter occurs because Logan City permitted people to build houses in a flood plain," Strong said.