Last Monday’s public meeting at the PUD auditorium centered on Enloe Dam and utility plans to generate power at the site. The updated estimate of construction cost is now $39-45 million dollars. The interest would add an estimated $30 million dollars. Combined with the $11 million already spent, we have a project cost of $80-85 million dollars.
Our PUD is already $40+ million in debt. In 2014 our debt service was $3.5 million. When the $45 million dollars borrowed from 2002 to 2011 is paid off in 2040, we will have paid the $45 million dollars on principle plus an additional $38.7 million in interest. The big banks love this. Currently, we are borrowing millions more to repair damage from the Carlton Complex Fire and will borrow still more to replace old infrastructure, aging poles, transformers and wire throughout the district. These costs cannot be avoided. With these growing mandatory expenses the proposed Enloe power plant is a dangerous and risky gamble on our ability to pay the bill.
The seasonal stream flows of the Similkameen River cannot produce enough power to justify doubling our debts and continuing to raise rates. The year-round output of the Enloe generators would average 5 Megawatts, 57% of the 9 megawatts often quoted as output by the PUD. Oroville’s sub-station distributes 27 megawatts to our region. Electrification of Enloe Dam would provide less than 20% of Oroville’s sub-station and only 2% of the Utility’s county wide requirement. This was the reason we abandoned the old power house in 1958. This investment defies logic and common sense.
The utility presented revenues and costs projected forward over the next 50 years, with and without Enloe in production. It shows that Enloe power would add to the PUD costs each year until the bonds are paid off around 2049. Commissioner Houston was skeptical of the projected 2.5 to 6 cent per kilowatt/hour benefit of Enloe power to the ratepayers 50 years down the line. “I look at numbers for a living. The differences in numbers that far out is insignificant. It’s not even within the margin of error”, said Houston.
PUD officials have been meeting since May with state and federal agencies, tribes, conservation and non-profit groups working to develop an alternative plan for the Similkameen River. The plan would be funded from sources outside the district and would include sediment studies, sediment removal and removal of the dam itself. It would take about 5 years and cost an estimated $35 million dollars. Why does our PUD continue to say over and over again “dam removal costs would be paid by the ratepayers”?
This huge amount of risk will largely profit people who live outside our county. These are the big bankers, the Wall Street investors and brokers, the large corporate manufacturers and the big contractors that will bring their equipment and journeymen to build the project. Except for some lodging, meals, food and fuel spent by workers and equipment over three years, there will be no long term gain to our local economy.
Ratepayers elected a new PUD Commissioner, Scott Vejraska, behind his promise to tackle the run-away spending and rate increases at our PUD. With a new perspective and no old baggage to cloud his thinking I hope he sees it is time to cut our loses on Enloe and get back to serving the people of Okanogan County with affordable electricity.