The dam again?

Dear Gary,

Roberta Hackett of Chesaw was right in her Letter to the Editor of Nov. 20. The Okanogan County PUD does need to educate the ratepayers and the various voices that aren’t ratepayers in Okanogan County.

One of the many questions we have about removing the Enloe Dam concerns the 45 feet of silt behind the structure. The figure itself is not very informative. How many cubic feet of toxic sludge are we talking about here? What toxic substances have washed down from all of those old mines and tailings over the last 90 years? What will a reclamation company do with it? How will they keep it from poisoning the downstream salmon beds and the watershed? And what about all that nasty gold that’s liable to be there?

If the dam stays in place is it structurally sound? Will it continue to hold back all that foul sludge? Would removing just some of the silt improve the water-head enough to make a powerhouse more productive? Would raising the height of the dam in the off-season (as was done in the past) improve the kilowatt output of said dam?

Losing the falls below the dam is a concern to some people. Is there a way to build a power house so esthetically pleasing that, from across the river, the lack wouldn’t be so glaring to tourists? I’m thinking perhaps Native American art and/or graphics of leaping salmon.

It looks like “tearing it out or building it” are going to cost about the same amount of money so that answered one of the questions. The timeframe for each of these options is an entirely different thing. The PUD has about four more years to complete the power house if they go that route. The permitting process for the removal project will take another eight years and the removal itself could take another 10 years after that. The time frame is really of no concern as long as these questions have been kicking around.

I’m the first to admit I’m no hydraulic engineer, and I do have a personal and sentimental attachment to the site, but there just must be a way to make all that water and all that height produce power and money for Okanogan County.

Or our PUD could just sell the problem to one of those out-of-county voices. You know, those voices that come in here and try to tell us how to manage the land and water we use to survive and maintain our life-style.

Gai Wisdom