Photo courtesy Okanogan County PUD

Photo courtesy Okanogan County PUD

By Marcy Stamper

After reviewing proposals to restart or remove Enloe Dam, the Okanogan County Public Utility District board voted unanimously Monday (May 9) to restart the dam to generate power.

The board heard testimony for both removal and electrification before voting to restart Enloe Dam. The board directed staff to work with Energy Northwest to develop a plan to construct generation facilities for the project.

The PUD board heard from Energy Northwest on April 11 about plans for developing Enloe to generate power again. Energy Northwest made an initial presentation in February, toured the dam in March, and has signed a $16,000 agreement to study the project. Energy Northwest is a joint operating agency of public power utilities in Washington, including the Okanogan County PUD.

The summary provided by Energy Northwest says the agency could provide overall project management and long-term operations and maintenance for Enloe. Energy Northwest could also provide financing based on the model used for the Nine Canyon Wind Project. They prefer that the PUD retain responsibility for permits.

The Energy Northwest proposal notes that they have only an estimate of project costs and that starting construction in July 2017 may not be achievable. It also notes the “continuing potential for environmental challenges.”

Water rights suit

The dam is also in court over the water rights the PUD plans to use to generate power at the dam.

In an appeal filed last year against the PUD and the Washington Department of Ecology, a coalition of river-conservation groups charges that diverting water to generate power would not leave enough water for instream flows and for fish. The coalition contends that Ecology issued a permanent water right to the PUD without enough data about whether the Enloe project would be detrimental to the river and to public welfare.

Ecology argues that the water rights permit meets statutory tests and the instream-flow rule, and that any concerns about public harm are addressed by conditions on the permit. These conditions include a requirement for a minimum water level in the river’s bypass reach.

The PUD argues that the water right has been upheld three times, by both the Pollution Control Hearings Board and in superior court. The PUD says permit conditions are adequate and that the study of aesthetic impacts does not have to be done in advance.

The appellants are the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, American Whitewater, and the North Cascades Conservation Council. The Court of Appeals in Seattle heard oral arguments in the case at the end of April. A decision is expected in several months.