Like every ratepayer in the county my electric bill took a big jump in August, my largest total ever for a single month. It reflects the last 6.5 percent increase imposed by the PUD and a very hot summer. I get even hotter when I think of all the millions of dollars wasted by the PUD on projects that clearly were not needed.
Most people remember the $10 million for diesel generators we never used and the $7 million for the new headquarters in Okanogan we couldn’t afford, but let’s not forget the $10 million dollars in materials and equipment laying on the ground at Pateros. The proposed sub-station and power line, with its 22 miles of new roads, transmission towers and many negative impacts on views and wildlife was passionately opposed by many Methow residents. They pointed out that the Loop line, had all the right of ways and could be rewired with new lighter higher capacity carbon graphite transmission cables by a company based here in Washington State at a fraction of the cost. This research and public input was repeatedly dismissed by the PUD Commissioners claiming we “needed” to serve the Methow from two directions. One lawsuit was brought by citizens and another brought by the DNR is headed to the State Supreme Court and the Loop line still needs to be rebuilt.
Up here in the North County the PUD wants to build a $40 million dollar Hydro Electric Plant on our beloved Similkameen River at Enloe Dam, dewatering the dam’s spillway and the riverbed 400 feet below. Similkameen Falls, beautiful in its own right, will be dry nine months out of the year. Salmon and steelhead ending their lives’ journey at the falls and spawning in the river below will be harmed by the many unintended consequences of their plans. The place many of us love will be ruined for our lifetimes and those who come after. Economic analysis has shown we will lose 26 dollars for every megawatt generated, not to mention the great harm to beauty of our Similkameen River Trail’s main attraction.
As U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rogers pointed out, increased energy and jobs would be created by upgrading the turbines at existing dams like Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph. The Columbia River flows at 1.5 million cubic feet per second and the drop to the turbines is 500 feet compared to the Similkameen’s average flow of 500 c.f.s. and a drop of 50 feet. Why not work with B.P.A., spend some money on those upgrades, guarantee energy from that source and leave the Similkameen for people and wildlife?
The sun powers our planet, warming us, growing our food and creating the water cycle on which all life depends. In eight minutes on any given day, the sun radiates energy to earth equal to the global energy demand by humans for an entire year. Solar Panel costs have come down to as low as $1/watt. For an investment of $15,000 for panels and grid-tie inverter my household could produce more energy than we consume. Why doesn’t the PUD encourage this with low interest loans paid back over five years from a revolving fund? Presently there are only 20 grid-tied solar system operating in the sunny Okanogan. Increase that to 2000, just 10 percent of our 20,000 meters and we would not need a $40 million additional expense to the ratepayers. For the cost of a cheap new car we could be getting a check from the PUD instead of writing them a big fat one.
Editor’s note: Just one minor clarification to Joseph’s letter, while salmon do die after spawning, steelhead, a form of ocean-going rainbow trout, do not, and can live on to spawn again. G.A.D.