History of Enloe Dam & HRC Economics Study
Except for Enloe dam, the Similkameen is a 122 mile free-flowing river with its headwaters on the east flank of British Columbia’s Manning Provincial Park. The Similkameen flows into the Okanogan River which joins the Columbia. Most of the 3,600 square mile Similkameen watershed (79%) is in BC, and the river is fed by three main tributaries, which include the Pasayten River near Manning Park, BC (most of which is in northern Washington), the Tulameen River at Princeton, BC and the Ashnola River near Keremos, BC.
Originally built in the early 1900’s, the 54 foot tall Enloe Dam has been controversial for both environmental and economic reasons for more than 90 years. Enloe has not generated hydropower since 1958 when it was decommissioned because lower cost energy was available from other sources. The current license application [Project No. 12569], pending with FERC since 2008, is the PUD’s fourth attempt since the mid-1980’s to add power generation to the dam. Previous licensing efforts failed due to poor economics and fish passage issues. The current proposal would also bypass virtually all of the river flow, de-watering Similkameen Falls for most of the year.
a. 1974 (FERC finally terminates 1956 license, decommissioning order in 1958)
b. 1983 FERC issues Enloe license;
c. 1986 rescinded by FERC
d. 1991 FERC issues EA for new license.
e. 1993 FERC denies new license.
Economics has been a critical issue in each of the previous attempts to renew generation at Enloe, and Coalition members have, since 2008, consistently asked the PUD to provide transparent economic numbers and forecasts. The PUD has repeatedly ignored this request, and so several Coalition members determined to conduct their own review before the PUD sinks ratepayer money into construction that can never be recovered.
Coalition members American Rivers, American Whitewater, Columbia Bioregional Education Project, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, North Cascades Conservation Council, and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club have been involved since 2008 when they filed joint comments on the projects Draft License Application (DEA). Several organizations have been involved with earlier licensing attempts at Enloe, and all are now pushing to have this un-wise investment dropped.
The Coalition has a long-standing public policy that supports generation at existing projects and increasing efficiency at existing dams. The Coalition has spent the past two decades working with dam owners to improve the environmental performance of working dams, and, over this time, supported more than 16,000 megawatts of hydropower at dams where owners have modernized their operations to benefit fisheries, watershed lands, water quality and recreation. Enloe would fall under this policy IF it made economic sense, did not cause environmental harm to the Similkameen, or if the PUD had the resources to adequately offset the impacts it will cause.
Dewatering Similkameen Falls for most of the year to generate just +5 megawatts of average annual generation (9MW of nameplate capacity) is too high a price to pay, especially when each megawatt will cost more to produce than it is worth.
On January 9, 2012, Okanogan County Commissioners wrote to FERC in reply to an earlier letter from Jon Knechtel of the Pacific Northwest Trails Association regarding the aesthetic and tourism value of the Similkameen River Trail and its impacts from the Enloe Dam project (both letters attached below). Their letter offered Commissioners support of the project. In their letter, the Commissioners stated that they are “aware that the PUD plans to provide flows over the falls. This has been published in the FERC EA and assertions to the contrary are disingenuous.” Also, “…the Enloe Dam project will contribute green power to the energy grid and expand the economic base of Okanogan County in a manner that causes few if any adverse impacts. The preliminary figures would indicate power sales of approximately $3,000,000 annually. The economic activity generated provides additional revenue to local businesses and in turn local government which supports critical public services.”
The just released RME Economics study provides facts and data that demonstrates that the project will not generate anywhere near this level of power sales, and that the expected revenue to local businesses will not develop, but that the project will actually detract from funding available for needed public services.
Flows over Similkameen Falls
The Washington Administrative Code establishes minimum stream flows for the Similkameen River; minimum instream flows range from a low of 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) in January and February to highs of 3,400 cfs in late May and June. The PUD’s proposal of 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) minimum flows from mid-July to mid-September, and 10 cfs the rest of the year would reduce flows over the fall to little more than a trickle of its natural flow for eight months of each year.
FERC’s DEA (page 35) states that the minimum recorded flow on the Similkameen was on Jan. 3, 1974 at 65cfs (attributed to ice effects). And the lowest minimum monthly average flow of 191 cfs occurred on September 2003. And while FERC recognized that “The large majority of the wetted area in the 370-foot reach would be dewatered and the majority of aquatic habitat in this reach would be lost.”, and “While this reduction of flow in the bypassed reach may seem extreme…” (DEA, page 90], FERC’s staff Assessment approved the PUD proposal for instream flows.
Certainly, reducing flows over Similkameen Falls to less than 1/6th of the lowest ever recorded flow on the river, for eight months each year as the staff alternative proposes will have a significant impact on environmental quality, and Coalition members continue to oppose these inadequate flows. The proposed minimum flow of 10 cfs is only 5 percent of the 79 year record of flows on the Similkameen.
The RME Report may also be found at the following sites:
Hydropower Reform Coalition website
American Whitewater Similkameen River website
Columbia River Bioregional Education Project website
Center for Environmental Law & Policy Enloe Dam website
For more information, contact Rich Bowers, Pacific Northwest Coordinator for the HRC. Rich@hydroreform.org