Out of My Mind, Jan. 26, 2012

New Enloe Dam study something to think about

At the risk of rubbing everyone the wrong way, let’s just say the new Enloe Dam analysis (see front page) sponsored by several conservation groups is “interesting.”
concern or at least break even. If it loses money then it will do none of us, the ratepayers, any good in this poor economy. The idea that having a hydro project on this end of the county to make more certain the delivery of our power is a good one – finding efficiencies are always a plus. Also, we have the dam on the river, making use of it has been the a dream of many who live in the area.
So, while a great majority are in favor of rehabilitating the old dam – making use of a renewable resource to generate power – is a good idea as it doesn’t add to our electric rates.
Where this new analysis goes astray isn’t in the fact it was based on the data that was used for the PUD’s application to FERC in 2008, that can be updated if the PUD get’s their re-license for the dam. Where it goes wrong is comparing Similkameen Falls, below and under the dam, to the Spokane Falls and to Snoqualmie Falls in its tourist potential. Come on, Spokane Falls are spectacular when they’re running strong and they’re right in the heart of downtown Spokane. You can’t miss them. Snoqualmie Falls may get more than a million visitors a year, but that is just a fraction of the people who travel by while crossing the Cascades via Snoqualmie Pass. Both sites have built in-tourist potential. We just don’t see the comparison there even with all the visitors to the Similkameen Trail we hope to have one day.
The falls are, however, just one of the attractions along the trail – there’s the old railroad grade, Native American and Fur Brigade history, the wildlife, all of these add up to what is great about the trail. However, the one thing the study seems to leave out as far as an attraction is the dam itself. Yes, the analysis about the high cost of rehabilitating the dam, but ignores the history Enloe represents to the area. It has been there for so long now it is like a natural part of the scenery. And where the PUD and many of us part company is the total dewatering of the spillway – sort of like a mini Grand Coulee Dam when no water is going over the top. This would be a drawback under the current proposal. Although putting more water downriver is supposed to have benefit to the local fish populations, according to the PUD (more about that next week), many of us want to see the water continue to plunge over the spillway at more than a trickle.
Of course the hidden subtext of the analysis is that a certain faction wants the dam gone altogether. We can’t get behind that. The dam, like the old powerhouse, should be preserved as part of our area’s heritage. If Enloe can generate power without increasing our rates, then it should be relicensed. And unlike some in Washington State who have been told otherwise, we believe hydroelectric power is just as much a renewable resource as wind and solar and should be counted as such.
Let’s keep our dam and our history.