We need a Wild Similkameen

Dear Editor,

The Okanogan PUD has a talon grip on the Similkameen River and refuses to let go.Last Monday, Dec.7th, the commissioners approved a $57 million budget that includes another $1.5 million spent toward the electrification of Enloe Dam. Enloe Dam was scheduled to receive $3.5 million in 2016 – $2 million dollars for engineering and design of the proposed powerhouse and intakes was withdrawn to balance this year’s budget. Spending more money we do not have on Enloe makes no sense.

Last January, local citizens organized a “No on Enloe“ Campaign which clearly showed, using the PUD estimates, that a powerhouse at Enloe would generate $1.1 – $1.7 million in losses annually. Electrification would require a minimum of $40 million dollars in bond sales and demand $3.5 million in additional payments for principle and interest annually. The projected loses at Enloe will trigger more borrowing just to keep the PUD operating. Our rates will be forced continually upward. Never mentioned by the PUD is the right-of-way agreement signed with the BLM in 2013.It requires our Utility to remove the powerhouse and all structures we plan to build on the site when the license ends in 50 years. This is a $40 million hidden cost, to be carried by the ratepayers.This is a disgrace.

As early as 1941, fish biologists in the Columbia Basin recognized the vital importance of the western tributaries to the Columbia River for naturally spawning salmon and steelhead. Fish biologists at NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Colville Confederated Tribes believe that removal of Enloe Dam would make 166 miles of stream habitat available for 100,000 adult upper Columbia River Steel head.This would be a huge win for people and the natural world.

The removal of Enloe Dam and the creation of a wild and scenic Similkameen River flowing through our lands would draw many visitors to our area. Fishermen, paddlers in kayaks and canoes, bicyclists, photographers, and hikers on the Pacific Northwest Trail will all be turned on by big fish in our river and the abundant life they foster.

NOAA and National Marine Fisheries representatives have made trips from Seattle and Ellensburg to Okanogan County PUD to discuss the potential of the Similkameen River.The money and the expertise necessary for removal of Enloe Dam and the restoration of the fishery could be available at no cost to the ratepayers. The only thing missing at the table is our PUD Commissioners saying “No On Enloe.” Write, call or E-mail you commissioners today. Outdoor Recreation is what we have to offer visitors to North County.Don’t let the PUD destroy the best calling card we could ask for, a wild Similkameen River.

Joseph Enzensperger