Enloe Dam was on the agenda Monday at the PUD Auditorium in Okanogan. As most readers know the PUD has a license from FERC to build a new powerhouse below Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River. On both an economic and environmental basis, we have been questioning the wisdom of building what FERC has permitted. Just because something is permitted does not always make it right. At stake is the future of the Similkameen River for the next 50 years.
We have been urging our PUD to work closely with the interested agencies, Department of the Interior, NOAA, US fisheries and Wildlife, BLM and others to remove all liability from the PUD and fund sediment testing, sediment removal and Dam removal itself. We have been seeking a no cost Dam Removal option for the ratepayers since January 2015 when the PUD agreed to look at both options: Electrification or the alternative: Dam Removal and habitat restoration of the Similkameen. It has not been easy to schedule meetings between agencies and the PUD and get everyone together at the table, but we have done our best.
Monday afternoon, Mike Brunfeldt of Interfluve, a dam removal company, presented a 20 minute overview of the steps taken in the Dam Removal process. The commissioners were engaged and followed the presentation with interest, asking a few questions. Mike was followed by Lisa Pelley of American Rivers. She explained that a detailed liability document requested by PUD was in process and under final review before presentation to the PUD in two weeks. We have identified the U.S. Department of the Interior as the ideal lead agency capable of assuming all liability from the PUD. It is now time for the PUD to invite the Department of the Interior to the table with a direct invitation. The PUD has given our group an ultimatum. We have just two weeks. It feels like they want to vote for electrification despite the many negatives.
The PUD is moving rapidly, contracting with Energy Northwest to design the Powerhouse and conduct a fresh assessment of project costs. The utility is also meeting with Energy Northwest for two days this week and could enter into a contract with Energy Northwest to design, finance, build, operate and own the facility at Enloe. This could all happen in the next couple of months. If you want your opinion heard before the final decision is made, you “must” attend the next PUD meeting on Monday, May 9 at 3 p.m.. Get a babysitter, bring some friends and come down to the PUD May 9 and let the PUD know how you feel about the fate of the Similkameen River. This could be the last chance any of us will have to protect the Similkameen River and Similkameen Falls. We need the Steelhead thriving in our waters, and more, paddling hiking and outdoor recreation all along the Similkameen River. Remember May 9 at 3 p.m. at the Okanogan PUD Auditorium. We all deserve a wild, scenic Similkameen. You can make a difference.