OKANOGAN American Whitewater has less than a week left to decide if it will appeal a federal 50-year license for Enloe Dam.
The conservation group is leaning toward not filing an appeal, according to Pacific Northwest spokeswoman Thomas O’Keefe, but attorney Andrea Rodgers Harris said it hasn’t been officially decided yet.
The deadline to appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is Monday.
“However, there’s still the matter of the water quality certification and what’s required for aesthetic flow, and that has not been resolved,” O’Keefe said.
Rich Bowers, coordinator for the Hydropower Reform Coalition, said the conservation groups hope to have discussions with utility commissioners and staff “so we’re not constantly at odds or constantly at court.”
“What we’d like to be able to do is sit down with the other agencies and the (utility) to discuss where all of this goes,” Bowers said. “I think in the water quality certification ruling that we got, we proved that this is still not a done deal.”
One option that’s still on the table, Rodgers Harris said, is removing the dam.
“I think it’s in the community’s interest to discuss whether it’s a viable option to have that (the dam),” she said. “Right now, my clients are really committed and focused on getting the people to the table who need to be there.
“We would prefer to not have to deal with this within the context of the court.”
The utility still hasn’t committed officially to revamping the dam to generate electricity, and Commissioner Dave Womack said they’re on board with having discussions.
“We’d taken action at the last meeting that said we’re willing to look at all options and we’re willing to meet with state and federal agencies to discuss any options that are out there,” he said. “As far as sitting down with American Whitewater, I’m not sure what authority they have or what monies they have for dam removal, but we’re willing to sit down with them and see what they have to say.”
On Monday, utility commissioners approved $785,000 in contracts for legal services and compliance issues for Enloe Dam.
“The Enloe Dam proposed expenditures are contracts being renewed with existing lawyers and consultants,” General Manager John Grubich said. “The consultants are dealing with the (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) requirements that we must perform as a condition of the FERC license.”
Grubich said $325,000 will go to the attorneys and $460,000 will be paid to the consultants. There were four contracts in total – one law firm and three contractors.
Enloe Dam’s 2014 budget is an estimated $3.1 million. Utility commissioners added a provision to approve all Enloe-related expenditures throughout the year.