OKANOGAN – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has accepted an application by Okanogan County PUD to relicense Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River northwest of Oroville.
“We’ve heard from FERC and they’ve accepted our final license application. Their timeline for deciding on issuing a license is pretty close to what we estimated,” said Dan Boettger, Director of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs for the utility.
Public agencies now have until the end of October to request additional study of the project and the utility has a month to respond to the agencies.
Boettger said acceptance of the application is the first step in the process and that there will be many more opportunities for comments from other agencies and the public. A flowchart provided by the PUD shows the various steps involved in the process from when the utility first provided information on their current efforts to the various agencies involved back in June of 2005. Environmental studies were completed in November of 2006 and the draft application was sent to the various agencies for comment in November of 2007. In April of this year there was a meeting with the agencies to resolve disagreements on environmental protection and the application with FERC was filed on Aug. 15.
The relicensing process also includes environmental analysis and impact scoping, as well as more public agency comment and the ability of the PUD to provide more information or address deficiencies. After the final EA/EIS is issued, FERC will then make the decision on whether to issue or deny the license. According to the flowchart, this could happen sometime in 2009 or early 2010.
Enloe Dam was constructed soon after the turn of the last century by a small private firm and was later sold to Washington Water Power (now Avista), which ceased
power production at the dam in 1958. It later came under control of the Public Utility District. The current powerplant, destroyed by time and vandalism, is located 900 feet downstream from the dam. At its peak the old powerplant could produce 3.2 megawatts. The PUD proposes moving the powerplant from the west side to the east side of the river and generating a proposed 9 megawatts.
Enloe Dam is a concrete gravity arch dam constructed between 1919 and 1923 as part of the second power development constructed at Similkameen Falls. The dam is 315 feet long with a maximum height of 54 feet.
According to the PUD’s application, “The proposed project includes restoring the functionality of the flashboards on the crest of the existing spillway by retrofitting crest gates. These gates would be five feet high and would increase the water level upstream of the dam and the hydraulic head available for power generation.”
The proposal would reduce the length of the river affected by diversion of a portion of the outflow from the reservoir through the powerplant. It would also return water only 480 feet downstream of the dam, while the old system returned water 930 feet downstream.
“This would provide for better circulation at a deep pool near the base of the falls which provides a cool water refuge for fish using the Similkameen River,” says the document.
The public utility, which provides electricity to most of Okanogan County, has been attempting to restore the dam’s generating capacity for more than two decades. However, past demands by some parties for the installation of fish passage made the project too costly.
“By some estimates it would have doubled the cost of the project, making it not feasible,” said Boettger.
FERC rescinded the district’s former license in 2000 and told the utility that any future application needed to include a consensus of all responsible parties in the United States and Canada regarding fish passage. The PUD believes the issue of fish passage, will not hold back the project this time around. They indicate in their application that they have had extensive consultation with Indian tribes on both sides of the border, as well as the concerned agencies in the U.S. and Canada.
As part of their booth, the district had a PowerPoint show on the relicencing process for Enloe Dam at the recent Okanogan County Fair which generated quite a bit of interest.
Copies of the Final License Application are available at the public libraries in Oroville, Tonasket, Omak, Okanogan and Twisp.