An appeal brought by a coalition of environmental groups claiming that the PUD’s proposal to restart Enloe Dam would destroy the aesthetic value of the waterfalls at the site had its first four days of testimony last week. Two more days have been scheduled in May because they did not complete all testimony.
The appeal to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board against the Washington Department of Ecology and the Okanogan County Public Utility District charges that a permit issued by Ecology that would allow the flow at Similkameen Falls to drop to 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the summer and 10 cfs over the winter would remove too much water from the falls, which average 500 cfs year-round. The Ecology permit allows the diversion of water from the falls during the summer and autumn for power generation.
The appeal, filed in August 2012, also raises issues of water quality and the impact on fish, and claims that the reduction in moisture would harm vegetation in the narrow gorge.
The appellants were first to provide testimony before the three-member board, who asked them to describe what the lowest flows would look like. Appellants also explained the cultural and historic benefits of the Similkameen River and falls.
The PUD applied in 2008 for a federal license to restart Enloe Dam, near Oroville, for the first time in more than 50 years. The utility was also required to obtain the permit from Ecology, which outlines the conditions the PUD must meet to maintain water-quality standards. The PUD is still awaiting a decision on the federal license to restart the dam.
The appellants are the Columbia River Bioregional Education Project, the Center for Environmental Law & Policy, American Whitewater, the North Cascades Conservation Council and the Columbia River Future Project-Sierra Club. Respondents are the PUD and Ecology. Appellants and respondents have submitted thousands of pages of documentation in the case.
The length of time needed for the Hearings Board to reach a decision depends on the complexity of a case. Once the Board has issued its ruling, parties may appeal to Superior Court.