Marc Alden’s letter “Enloe Dam: Missing Facts” was good preparation for possible disasters but made a weak argument for building the proposed power house at Enloe Dam. “Fear “was the emotion woven through his narrative. These are real facts for consideration.
Our PUD is currently about $38 million in debt. Interest alone is $1.75 million annually. Our electric rates have increased 40-50 percent in four years. Electric consumption and sales revenue are in decline and the PUD debt is growing. Mismanagement is afoot. The ratepayers are hurting.
Enloe dam will produce 45 GWH of electricity annually according to the PUD. This would supply 33 percent of Oroville’s electric demand or 5 percent of the entire PUD load. Wholesale power prices have fallen dramatically since the energy bubble burst in 2007, from $58/MWH to $23.5/MWH today. Enloe Dam will require $2.6 million to operate annually but will only generate $1.1 million at market price, losing $1.5 million each year. Borrowing an additional $40 million and going ahead with this plan will push our climbing electric payments through the roof, doubling the debt and annual interest owed by the utility. We all lose if this plan goes forward.
The Similkameen River is the home of threatened summer Chinook salmon and endangered upper Columbia River steelhead. More than any other species, Salmon and steelhead, define the Northwest. Before dams they spawned in nearly every stream within the Columbia and Snake River watersheds, providing an abundant primary food source to native people. With so few natural spawning populations remaining, unnecessary dams like Enloe are being removed to restore rivers to natural function and increase available spawning habitats. Dams prevent the natural deposition of gravels and woody debris that create gravel beds suitable for spawning.
Dams also stop the up and down river movement of other important fish species. On our Similkameen for example, whitefish, rainbow trout, Pacific lamprey, pike minnow, peamouth, chisel lip, red-sides, suckers , freshwater clams and mussels, would all move up and down river. We have a collective responsibility to preserve, protect and enhance the river home of all these wild fish stocks.
The PUD has claimed that our utility will bear the burden for costs associated with restoration of the Similkameen River and eventual removal of Enloe Dam. This is a false and misleading statement. Courts and policy makers in the region have determined salmon and steelhead recovery is a regional responsibility to be shared by the BPA and all other downstream utilities producing hydropower on the Columbia River. The money is set aside in special accounts by law and is waiting for worthy restoration projects like ours. Clearly, funding will not come from the Okanogan County PUD.
Our local communities have a great opportunity for prosperity if we protect the wild, scenic, outdoor character of our region. Visitors will come to enjoy the fish, wildlife and natural beauty of our area. They will come to boat, paddle, bike, hike, horseback ride, camp, hunt and photograph. They will take in the natural beauty, breath the clean air and work up an appetite with all that activity. Some will buy lunch or dinner, some will buy more gear or window shop Main St. and some will stay the night and have breakfast the next morning. Every guest will make a contribution to our local economy. Main St. can make a comeback after years of decline. We don’t need more electricity we need a vibrant outdoor recreation economy. The “Economic Generator” we really need is a wild, scenic Similkameen.