Submitted by Rick Gillespie
Columbia River Bioregional Education Project
OROVILLE – A group of citizen plaintiffs, represented by Smith & Lowney, PLLC, has prevailed in its suit to reverse State approval of the design-build process on the Enloe Hydroelectric Project due to defective public notice. The case was filed against the State of Washington Capital Projects Advisory Review Board, Project Review Committee (PRC), and the Okanogan Public Utility District (OPUD).
The OPUD had proposed to use the design-build process for this project, which is a process that must be approved by the PRC in a public meeting for which it must provide public notice. The lawsuit sought to prove that the notice provided by the PRC was illegal, because it was published only on the PRC’s website and the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, rather than in newspapers local to the OPUD and the project itself.
Prior to the court hearing the case, the PRC determined that the best course of action was to rescind its approval of the project, set a new hearing date, and provide the required public notice in local newspapers. The new hearing date is set for 9 a.m. on April 27, 2017 at the Carpenter Facility in Kent, Washington. Any member of the public can submit a comment to the PRC prior to April 17th.
Since 1958, the dam and powerhouse have not produced power. Enloe Dam was considered obsolete once power production was developed by the Bonneville Power Administration on the Columbia River.
The OPUD projected cost to build new power generation at Enloe Dam is between $39.1 million and $45.5 million dollars according to figures developed by the utility in 2014. The maximum amount of power generated at Enloe would be 9 MW, with the average annual output projected to be 4.5 MW according to OPUD. The power produced is expected to cost between 8.8 and 10.6 cents/kWh based on OPUD estimates.
Plaintiffs believe that the project is too expensive and provides too little power in return for a very large capital investment. In November of 2014, OPUD advertised Enloe Dam for sale to other power companies. To date no reasonable offer has been received.
In February of 2016, Energy Northwest, a consortium of Utilities, reviewed the OPUD costs estimates
to re-energizing Enloe Dam. That assessment revealed that the electrification project could cost 40 percent more than estimated by OPUD.
OPUD has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Douglas PUD to purchase an additional 22 percent of Wells Dams at a cost of 3.4 cents/KWh, beginning in 2018. Twenty-two percent of Wells Dam output is 170 MW. The average daily load carried by OPUD is 77 MW. This MOU will provide over twice the current average daily load of residents in Okanogan County.
Plaintiffs in the case are looking beyond the Project Review Committee Decision and based on the power purchase agreements further confirms that Enloe Dam remains an obsolete power production project. The next step is for ratepayers to discontinue the pursuit of an unwarranted and expensive project.