Wednesday, January 29, 2014/lk
OKANOGAN In an effort to open discussions with Okanogan County Public Utility District about the future of Enloe Dam, American Whitewater decided not to file an appeal of the dam’s federal 50-year, power-generation license.
The Jan. 20 deadline to appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came and went with no action from the conservation organization, according to Rich Bowers with the Hydropower Reform Coalition.
“We decided at the end that until we moved this off the legal route … nothing was going to move forward,” Bowers said.
Utility Commissioner Ernest Bolz said he was relieved to hear there would be no appeal, although the issue was between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and American Whitewater and didn’t directly involve the utility.
Representatives from American Whitewater and government agencies have been invited to a Feb. 24 board meeting to discuss the dam, he said.
“There will be no decisions made on Enloe at that time, but it will be a discussion of people who have the means and authority to do something about Enloe,” he said.
“Specifically, we’re looking for comments from government agencies.”
The meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. at the utility headquarters, 1331 N. Second Ave.
Pacific Northwest regional coordinator Thomas O’Keefe told The Chronicle that even without the battle over the 50-year FERC license, which was issued to the utility in July 2013, “There’s still the matter of the water quality certification and what’s required for aesthetic flow, and that has not been resolved.”
Although the utility hasn’t officially determined whether to improve and reopen the dam’s power plant on the Similkameen River, it has faced considerable opposition from conservation groups and community members who argued that the dam would be detrimental to the water flow over Similkameen Falls and could impact recreation.
One topic the Hydropower Reform Coalition plans to broach again is removing the dam entirely.
Utility commissioners have said they haven’t been approached by any governmental agencies about removal – more specifically, how to fund it.
The coalition – comprised of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, American Whitewater, Columbia River Bioregional Education Project, North Cascades Conservation Council and the Sierra Club – celebrated a July 23 ruling by the state Pollution Control Hearings Board that upheld the state Department of Ecology’s 401 water quality certification for the Enloe Dam project, but stated the permit is “deficient” until Ecology and the utility monitor the water flow and any potential impacts on natural aesthetics for three years after the dam resumes operations.
In its ruling, the board stated Ecology considered “the impact of aesthetic flows on the operation of the Project, rather than considering the Project’s impact on the aesthetic values of the flows. This is not the proper standard.”
Enloe Dam’s 2014 budget is an estimated $3.1 million. Utility commissioners are also requiring board approval for all expenditures relating to the dam.