The Similkameen River and the PUD


Dear Editor,

Deep in every human soul is a love of those lands we call home. Our human environment, the place we live, where we grow our crops and draw our water, the open places we leave intact for all nature’s diversity, is our connection to life itself. Everyone has a right and responsibility to protect the place where they live. That is why we so strongly oppose plans to build a new hydro-electric plant at Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River, 3.5 miles west of Oroville, my hometown.

The new PUD design does not use the old power house, instead it crosses the river and takes over our access to the river, from the dam down to the big pool at Similkameen Falls. The plan raises the reservoir by five feet, creating a large holding pond where we park today. Large control gates at the downhill break of the trail will feed penstocks down to the generators and powerhouse 50 feet below with turbine tailrace spilling into our best fishing hole on the river. This plan will destroy a great natural wonder on the Similkameen River and replace it with an industrial installation of concrete, metal, wire and lights.

The PUD’s borrow-and-spend business plan is flawed and is dragging us all down with it. Since 2002 our Utility has borrowed through sales of bonds $44.9 million dollars. We pay interest on the principle. When that last check is written in the year 2030, we will have paid out tens of millions in interest. Attending the June 9, 2014 PUD meeting I learned our Utility has been offered a $50 million dollar line of credit from lender CFC. It seems clear much more spending is planned. We need our utility to help us save money, not borrow more and more at the expense of future generations.

Using data that has not been updated in ten years, the PUD estimates electric generation at Enloe Dam will cost $35 million dollars but we all know once started, it could cost much more. It is a huge gamble with our money and it won’t produce the power we need at a price we can afford. The average monthly output of the turbines would only be 5.2 MW, less than 20% of the Oroville sub-station load.

The BLM, owners of the Enloe site, stated at a public meeting in February, the PUD will not bear the cost of sediment and dam removal if power is not generated. Discussions between federal and state agencies, tribal representatives, the Hydro Reform Coalition, conservationists and the PUD could lead away from this new powerhouse to the restoration and rehabilitation of the Similkameen River at little cost to the ratepayers. An additional 100,000 Upper Columbia River Steelhead living throughout the river system would be a huge benefit to our area.

Finally, let us not forget about the Similkameen River Trail and our connection the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. Outdoor recreation tourism is our new growing, sustainable economic engine. Our trail, now blocked and thwarted by the PUD, could follow the Great Northern rail grade through the now gated tunnel, along the river out to historic Nighthawk and on to Mt. Chopaka and the Pasayten Wilderness. Many people, mountain bikers, hikers, disabled-persons, back packers, birders and fisherman will all be delighted to enjoy the wild side of our river. Later, they can eat, drink, stay the night and purchase goods and enjoy the services of our amazing little town of Oroville. Like trail towns along the Appalachian Trail we could thrive on these guests just here to recharge for a day or two.

If you are concerned as I am about the future of our river, community and this ratepayer owned electric utility, please let Commissioner Ernie Bolz know your thoughts and feelings on this urgent matter. Ernie Bolz (509) 486-2553 or email:

Joseph Enzensperger