BY MARCY STAMPER
The decision about the aesthetic impact of a reduced flow over Similkameen Falls to power Enloe Dam could affect rivers and waterfalls across the state, according to a summary of the hearings.
Testimony wrapped up earlier this month in the appeal by five environmental organizations before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board. They argue that by allowing the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) to reduce the amount of water flowing over the falls in the summer and fall, the Department of Ecology is failing to protect water quality.
The PUD and Ecology claim that the reduced flows will preserve the appeal of the area while making the dam an economical source of power and protecting fish.
Appellants argued that the low flows would adversely affect recreation and that Ecology had not considered all water-flow scenarios in issuing a permit to the PUD.
Ecology asserted that the water flows protect aesthetics and conditions for fish, since the Similkameen River is already warmer than optimal and adding more water would raise temperatures further, according to the attorney general representing Ecology.
Ecology has also argued that they considered aesthetics at waterfalls closer to Seattle and Spokane because they are near major population centers, but that they do not apply at the remote site near Oroville.
The PUD applied in 2008 for a federal license to restart Enloe Dam, which has not operated for more than 50 years. They are still awaiting that decision. The utility was also required to obtain the permit from Ecology.
The appellants are asking the three-judge panel to revoke Ecology’s permit and require the agency to do more data collection and modeling of water flows. The decision is expected later this year.