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Debates continue over historic dam

Future of Enloe still uncertain

Exploring the area around Enloe Dam and Similkameen Falls, it’s easy to see why it draws in people who love the outdoors. Roads leading from the highway are primitive and tend to flood in a few spots during especially rainy seasons, but there are numerous walking trails surrounding the falls and opportunities for bird watching, not to mention checking out the historic dam and powerhouse built more than 90 years ago. The dam hasn’t generated power since 1958, when the Okanogan County Public Utility District opted to shut it down and buy power more cheaply from Bonneville Power Administration. The powerhouse is dilapidated, the bridge that connected it to the other side of the river long gone. Since then, there have been countless discussions and a few attempts to get a powerhouse up and running again. After a five-year application process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the utility secures a 50-year license in July 2013 to generate electricity. Previous licenses were granted in 1983 and 1996, but were rescinded because there were no studies done on the impacts to anadromous fish. Although commissioners still haven’t decided whether to restore the dam or breach it, and water issues are still caught up in litigation, the utility is moving forward with meeting FERC license deadlines. Under terms of the license, if the commissioners decide to go ahead and operate the dam – a project that carries a roughly estimated cost of about $35 million – construction must begin by July 2015 and be completed three years later. The project includes plans for two penstocks, a substation, a new powerhouse and tailrace, an intake channel, a bypass reach and five-foot crest gates to boost generation. But the scope of the license involves more than just the dam, according to utility Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Director Dan Boettger. It also includes guidelines and requirements for fish mitigation, recreation and water quality, among other things. One challenge the utility will have to address, he said, is the temperature of the Similkameen River, which can sometimes be fatally high for fish. Because the nearby Okanogan River is even warmer, the Similkameen is a “cold water refuge” for fish, including endangered steelhead, trying to make their way upstream, Boettger said. Utility employees have discovered small pockets of cold water welling up into the stream beds, where fish like to congregate to survive the hotter summer months before moving on, but more work is required. One major project will involve drilling a well to pump cold water into the stream bed. “All of the fish agencies are actually very excited to see this thing get done,” Boettger said. “The lower Similkameen is important habitat for salmonid.” Another required project is bringing in more gravel to help fish safely spawn and house their eggs. Above the dam itself, the utility would install an intake channel with a wide opening that narrows as it descends into the penstocks and new powerhouse planned on the southeast side of the dam. Part of the reason for the wider channel opening, Boettger said, is to slow down the water flow and give fish a chance to turn around and swim back up the reservoir. In addition, the intake won’t need to be as deep, meaning less sediment disruption. Such measures are part of what he referred to as “P, M and E” – prevention, mitigation and enhancement. “We’re trying to avoid fish impacts,” he said. More recreation spots, including a park, small campground and boat launch, are planned for the wooded area northeast of the dam and at Miners Flat. The projects come at the request of the Bureau of Land Management, which owns the land where Enloe Dam sits, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Those projects, however, may be the opposite of what people who use the area want. Boettger said the utility has surveyed people during peak recreation times. “They wanted us to maintain it as you see it today,” he said. “We have tried to honor that, but we’ve gotten some pressure from agencies that want more recreational amenities.” A recreation plan is due in July, as are some other tasks. “We’re currently meeting all of the dates that FERC assigned to us,” he said. Boettger estimates the dam would become economical in about 20 years. It would generate a maximum of 9 megawatts between two 4.5-megawatt generators, which could provide electricity to about 3,500 homes. As for the old powerhouse, Boettger said the utility initially wanted to rebuild it and use it, but can’t. Instead, the plan is to advertise it for sale over a five-year period. If no buyers come forward, it will be removed. “We’re trying to come up with ways to make everyone happy,” he said. A number of ratepayers believe the project isn’t a financially wise move and have asked the utility to remove the dam altogether. However, Boettger said there’s a chance for the utility to recoup some of its investment if the dam is operational, whereas spending a similar amount of money to remove it would be a total loss. Jere Gillespie with the Columbia River Bioregional Education Project, which issued a study pointing out the economic problems surrounding the dam, said a proposal to remove Enloe has been created. “The draft proposal has been submitted to PUD management, and contains an outline of other dams removed in the Northwest recently, the costs of those removals, and other such details,” she said, noting the document has not been made public yet. “Then the removal of Enloe itself is considered, and a timeline of objectives is offered. Also, potential funding sources are outlined and partners are identified.” In February, the Hydropower Reform Coalition was invited along with several agencies to take part in a discussion about the possibility of removing the dam. Representatives from the Bonneville Power Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management all said they would support removing the dam if the utility chooses to go that route, but no one was able to contribute funding to accomplish it. The Colville Confederated Tribes spoke in favor of reopening the dam. The tribe and utility signed a memorandum of understanding in 2009 that would allow the tribe to purchase, at cost, up to 49 percent of the power generated. As a public entity, the utility cannot sell power for profit. Meanwhile, Boettger said there’s still a legal issue ongoing regarding cubic feet per second going over the dam. The utility does not comment on pending litigation. Some legal battles have been settled over the past year. In January, American Whitewater dropped its appeal in federal court that claimed FERC didn’t consider the impacts of the minimum required flow of the falls. The appeal was dropped in an effort to open communication with the utility. The state Pollution Control Hearings Board issued an order July 23, 2013, requiring the state Department of Ecology and the utility to conduct an aesthetic flow study within the next three years, then amend the minimum required flow if necessary. Advocacy groups argue 10-30 cubic feet per second (cfs) isn’t enough flow, and that the permit failed to comply with the Clean Water Act. Since then, the utility has secured a Clean Water Act permit, Boettger said. To obtain the full 9 megawatts, the utility has a water right of 1,000 cfs, but an additional 600 cfs is needed. He said the dam could be created for a smaller amount of production that would use less water, but that may prevent the dam from becoming solvent.

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Portion of Freund Canyon Trail closed

Logging operations prompt closure of three-mile stretch of Freund Canyon Trail

Cattlemen oppose fish project

Colville tribe plans project in Johnson Creek drainage

The first phase of a proposed fish barrier passage project along Johnson Creek will not begin construction in June as planned, but some residents are objecting to the project.

Tribe celebrates Earth Day event

Cities plan Arbor Day activities

NESPELEM — An Earth Day celebration will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at the celebration grounds next to the Community Center, 4000 Lower Columbia River Road. The Colville tribal event includes food, performances by children and drummers, informational booths and drawings for a variety of prizes. A color guard will present flags at 10 a.m., followed by a prayer from a tribal elder. At 10:45 a.m., performances are planned by local school children and drummers. Winners of school and tribal programs competitions will be announced at 11 a.m. A barbecue featuring hot dogs, beverages and dessert is planned. Door prizes will be announced at 1 p.m. Winners must be present. A closing ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. Participants can visit more than 50 booths for information and free items. Information will be available on recycling, cleaning up, energy conservation, reducing air pollution, and education and sharing. The celebration is provided by the tribal recycling and environmental trust programs. Tribal recycling accepts, newspapers, white or colored paper, paper sacks, magazines, inserts and junk mail, bagged shredded paper, telephone and paperback books, flattened cardboard boxes, chipboard (food, detergent and facial tissue boxes, and paper towel and toilet paper tubes), clean plastic bottles (No. 1 and No. 2, no lids), aluminum cans and pie pans, clean steel/tin cans, empty aerosol cans, and clean glass food and beverage jars and bottles (sorted by color). ----------------------------------------- Cities plan Arbor Day activities OKANOGAN — Several Okanogan County communities are planning Arbor Day celebrations in the next couple weeks. Okanogan and Omak, which share a Tree Board, will have their Arbor Day events Friday. In Okanogan, a tree-planting ceremony begins at 11 a.m. in Jaycee Park. A linden tree will be planted. At 1 p.m., a dogwood tree will be planted in the dog park being developed in East Side Park. The dog park is adjacent to Carl Precht Memorial RV Park. Other Arbor Day celebrations include: Oroville — 1:30 p.m. April 24 at Oroville Elementary School, 808 Main St. Two trees are scheduled to be planted. Pateros — 10 a.m. April 26 on the pedestrian mall. A tree will be planted. Twisp — Noon to 1 p.m. April 26 on Glover Street. Park trees will be pruned and a tree will be planted. Coulee Dam had a tree planting April 9 in Mason Park. The state’s official Arbor Day was April 9. The Department of Natural Resources recognized 84 cities in the Tree City USA program. Local honorees included Okanogan, 17; Omak, 17; Oroville, 6; Pateros, 1; Tonasket, 8; and Twisp, 14.

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Wildfire prompts closure of North Pine Creek Road

Okanogan County officials close North Pine Creek Road as wildlife sweeps through area, toppling trees

Canadians worry about mussels

Officials seek border guard authority to deny entry into B.C.

Thinking about boating on the Canadian side of Lake Osoyoos or in other British Columbian waters? Better inspect your vessel for zebra and quagga mussels.

More residents object to land buys

Some Douglas County residents are growing concerned about state land acquisitions in their neck of the woods.

Weigh-in dates set for fair livestock

Weigh-in dates have been set for animals that will be entered in September’s Okanogan County Fair.

Dam removal is topic

Fisheries scientist and manager Dennis Dauble will speak about the ecology of dam removal in the Pacific Northwest.

BPA biologist gets earful on land buys

Commissioners want more details on federal projects

A Bonneville Power Administration biologist got an earful Tuesday from Okanogan County commissioners and several residents about the agency’s land purchases for fish habitat restoration.

Review of purchases gets going

A public review will open in the next few months on Round 1 of the Colville Confederated Tribes’ land management plans and site-specific projects for the following list of properties purchased by Bonneville Power Administration:

City gets new fishing access

Boat launch will

The city will soon have another fishing access area with a nearby campsite and walking trails along the banks of the Columbia River.

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Hastings receives Water Statesman Award

Water group recognizes Congressman Doc Hastings for his work on hydropower issues

Winthrop may hear marijuana applicant’s appeal

The Town Council is slated to set a public hearing date tonight for a hopeful marijuana retailer who would like to set up shop in the town’s industrial zone.

Firewood permits now available for Colville National Forest

Residents can obtain permits to cut firewood in Colville National Forest