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Hearing focuses on dam

Public Utility District discusses financial requirements for 2014

— The next evening budget hearing hosted by the Okanogan County Public Utility District will address the estimated $5.18 million set aside for the Enloe Dam project near Oroville.

The hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the utility headquarters, 1331 N. Second Ave. The first part of the hearing will feature a final presentation for the finance portion of the budget, then the utility will present a breakdown of the Enloe project budget.

“We’re working on that,” General Manager John Grubich said on Friday.

Grubich said part of the budgeted amount – $5.189 million – will be spent on a remaining legal issue regarding the 50-year license received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in July.

“There’s still a couple issues that we have outstanding,” he said, referring to the petition that several conservation groups filed asking FERC to reconsider the license.

The Columbia River BioRegional Education Project, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, American Whitewater, North Cascades Conservation Council and Sierra Club filed the petition Aug. 8, claiming FERC violated the National Environmental Policy Act because it didn’t consider the environmental and economic impacts of the minimum required flow of Similkameen Falls when it issued the new license.

Grubich said FERC denied the petition rom all but one of the conservation groups. American Whitewater submitted a motion to intervene near the start of the licensing process.

He said a time frame for the decision hasn’t been provided.

“If FERC denies that, the next level is anyone who wants to appeal the FERC process files an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Grubich said. “That will be expensive if it goes to that level.”

Oroville resident Joseph Enzensperger, one of the most outspoken against reopening Enloe Dam for operations, said he plans to attend Tuesday’s hearing.

“We’ve been asking the PUD to bring out the numbers and justify the project … show the economic viability of the project,” he said. “All we’ve gotten is the fluff-off for the last year and a half.

“Who among the commissioners has a mandate from the public that says, ‘We want you to build this project.’ Where is that coming from?” he said.

“We’ll have a powerhouse that nobody wanted and isn’t going to save the PUD anything at all. In fact, it will probably lead toward its financial ruin.”

Enzensperger is in favor of seeing the dam removed entirely to preserve the aesthetics of Similkameen Falls, protect area wildlife and draw more tourists and recreation enthusiasts to Okanogan County.

“This river, this canyon is pretty doggone special,” he said. “I think there’s easily 1,000, 2,000 users just this year. There’s three or four cars parked out there continually.”

However, the utility has pointed out that it would bear the brunt of the cost for removing the dam and cleaning up the waste behind it.

The first evening hearing last week, dealing with the maintenance and operations aspect of the budget, drew a small audience.

Utility spokeswoman Tina DeLap said two ratepayers showed up for the Oct. 29 hearing.

“One stayed for the duration and one left before 7:30 (p.m.),” she said. “Neither attendee expressed concerns or questions.”

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