By Marcy Stamper
The PUD’s Enloe Dam project faces one more hurdle, with the filing of a petition Thursday (Aug. 8) by environmental groups who say a federal commission must take into account the amount of water that would flow over the dam and an adjacent waterfall before it issues a license to build the dam.
The five environmental organizations, which won an appeal in July before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board on a similar issue, contend that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) violated national environmental laws by not considering the impacts of a significant reduction in the water flowing over the dam and falls.
The petition is a response to FERC’s issuance on July 9 of a license for the Okanogan County Public Utility District to construct the dam.
“The commission must analyze a reasonable range of minimum flow requirements before project construction and operation,” the environmental groups claim in the petition [italics in original].
They also charge that the commission based the license on outdated economic information provided by the PUD.
The environmental groups are asking FERC to reevaluate the license and to create a group composed of the petitioners and federal and state agencies to assess the aesthetics of different water flows and their effect on recreation in the area.
The state Department of Ecology issued a permit to the PUD allowing the utility to divert all but a small amount of water for power generation in the summer and fall when the river runs low. The Pollution Hearings Board agreed with the groups that the PUD and Ecology have to consider the visual effect of the flow in addition to the impact on fish. The FERC license incorporates Ecology’s permit.
The Pollution Hearings Board directed the PUD and Ecology to monitor the visual impact of the flows once the dam is operating. This petition asks for an analysis before the project is built.
The PUD plans to update its economic analysis once they have a final ruling on flows, said PUD General Manager John Grubich.
The PUD acquired the dam in 1945 and last generated power there in 1959. Since then, the PUD has filed three applications with FERC to restart the dam. The first two requests, filed in 1981 and 1991, were granted and later rescinded at the PUD’s request, primarily because of questions about fish passage. The current license application was filed in 2008.
Petitioners are American Whitewater, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, the Sierra Club, the North Cascades Conservation Council and the Columbia River Bioregional Education Project.
FERC has 30 days to act on the request for re-hearing. The commission can grant the request in whole or in part, deny it, or declare a need for more time to consider it, according to a FERC spokesperson.