I am responding to a recent Gazette-Tribune article about Enloe Dam, which featured unsupported predictions from the PUD on how much it might cost to remove the dam. The PUD’s cost estimates have no basis in reality and seem more intended to shock ratepayers into letting the PUD off the hook on its promise to look at breaching and other alternatives to their costly proposed project.
How much would it really cost to breach Enloe? Nobody knows because no one has studied it. Condit Dam, on Washington’s White Salmon River, was more than twice the height of Enloe when it was breached in 2011 for a fraction of what the PUD has guessed as a cost. The project to remove the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, on the Olympic Peninsula, is indeed costing hundreds of millions, but that includes buying and removing two separate large dams and building water treatment facilities. Other recent dam removals (Marmot, Powerdale, Hemlock, Rogue River dams) were all below the lowest numbers listed in the Gazette-Tribune article. These other removals each started with studies and discussions among interested parties. In each case this discussion led to a regional solution to who pays. Nobody knows the cost for Enloe, but the PUD has an opportunity and responsibility to seek their own regional solution.
Enloe dam has blocked the Similkameen River for over 90 years. It’s not going to hold up forever. So if everyone, including the PUD, agrees that upgrading the dam to produce power would cost more than it would make, isn’t it reasonable to do an actual study of what it might cost to instead restore the natural river? Who knows, it could be less than what the PUD has guessed, and far less than they have already spent defending its project in court.
One thing we know this community needs and deserves is more open communication and cooperation from its PUD. A good start would be for the PUD to sit down with stakeholders and begin a dialogue that could perhaps include a study of actual scenarios and costs. Then the PUD could have something real to report to its ratepayers – as promised.