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Proposal calls for removal of Enloe Dam

No discussion of proposal planned at Tuesday meeting by utility board

— A draft proposal to remove Enloe Dam predicts it could be done within five years, at a roughly estimated cost of about $35 million.

The proposed plan was completed last month by the new Enloe Dam Removal Work Group, at the request of the Okanogan County Public Utility District.

A presentation was not included on the agenda for Monday’s board meeting, but utility commissioners have received copies of the draft proposal. The meeting starts at 2:30 p.m. at utility headquarters, 1331 N. Second Ave.

Commissioner Ernest “Ernie” Bolz, in whose district Enloe lies, said he was disappointed after reviewing the proposal.

“It is a document of ifs and maybes, and really doesn’t offer anything of substance,” he said. “I was hoping for a lead agency to be named and actual offers of funding. Instead, as you can see, there was no lead agency named, and only a list of potential sources of funding was provided with the assumption that the PUD first gives up the (generating) license.”

The utility has been trying for years to get the dam relicensed to generate electricity. It received a federal license in July 2013, but has been under pressure by some community members to remove the dam.

“This is too vague for the commission to move forward on, in my opinion,” Bolz said of the proposal.

Rich Bowers with the Hydropower Reform Coalition, one of the work group’s leaders, disagreed.

“We’ve given them everything that we can,” he said. “We have to be clear … nobody can raise money for dam removal until the PUD agrees to remove a dam that they own. It’s their dam, and if they don’t want to take the dam out, the dam removal can’t go anywhere.”

According to a preliminary funding resource list, potential sources for the sediment study and dam removal could include other area utilities in Douglas, Chelan and Grant counties; Bonneville Power Administration; the Yakama Accords and Colville Accords; the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund; the federal Bureau of Reclamation; the state Department of Ecology’s Office of the Columbia River; and Puget Sound Acquisition/Restoration Large Capital Projects.

The list estimates potential funding up to about $47 million.

“If the PUD thinks it’s going to cost a billion dollars, they know something that nobody else knows,” Bowers said.

However, the proposal notes that no requests for funding will be submitted until all parties, including the utility and Colville Confederated Tribes, sign a memorandum of understanding to remove Enloe Dam.

“When we left the meeting in February, one of the first things that had to happen was the PUD had to talk to the Colville tribes,” Bowers said.

The two agencies have an existing agreement that would allow the tribe to purchase to 49 percent of the power generated at Enloe, starting in 2019.

In a meeting Feb. 24 among the utility, the tribe and several other state and federal agencies, tribal representatives said they were in favor of generating power at Enloe.

Utility commissioners still haven’t determined whether to move forward on construction, but the utility is required to continue meeting deadlines for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license it received to operate the dam.

According to the draft proposal, commissioners would make a “go” or “no-go” decision whether to re-power the dam. If the utility decides not to move ahead with it, the work group plans to begin studying the sediments built up behind the dam since 1920.

Bowers said he isn’t sure how much the sediment and dam removal studies will cost, but the proposal notes they could be funded by a private entity.

Once the studies are complete, the next step in the plan calls for the utility and stakeholders to create a memorandum of understanding regarding dam removal. Aside from establishing a solid plan for removal, the agreement would help the utility avoid further litigation, according to the proposal.

Finally, the utility would submit the agreement to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and file a request to surrender its dam license.

The work group’s goals include restoring the area once the dam is out, improving fish habitat in the Similkameen and upper Columbia River watersheds, and reducing utility ratepayer losses to repower the dam while removing potential hazards and liability issues that would affect the dam owners.

“The restoration benefits with the dam removal for Chinook and steelhead could be tremendous,” Bowers said.

But without a completed study into what removal would entail, the proposal makes several assumptions, such as: The dam could be demolished from the top; materials from the dam could be hauled away to a disposal site about 10 miles away; roads would be adequate to handle equipment and hauling materials; and a short-term water quality modification would be acceptable to state and federal agencies.

As examples, the proposal points to some case studies, one being Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek in Pend Oreille County. Deconstruction of Mill Pond Dam is expected to begin next year, with cost estimates of about $15 million.

That dam is 55 feet high and 134 feet long, compared to Enloe’s 54 feet high and 315 feet long.

Bowers said the coalition and work group are ready to step up, but the utility has to make the first move.

“We think it’s a pretty good faith effort to get things moving,” he said. “I understand where the PUD is coming from ... but I am really looking forward to the time when we can all sit down and the table and everyone talks about this.”

Work group members included representatives from the Hydropower Reform Coalition, Bonneville Power Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the state Bureau of Land Management.

If the commissioners decide to re-energize Enloe Dam – a project that carries a roughly estimated cost of about $35 million – construction must begin by July 2015 and be completed three years after that.

The project includes plans for two penstocks, a substation, a new powerhouse and tailrace, an intake channel, a bypass reach and five-foot crest gates to boost generation. It would generate a maximum of 9 megawatts between two 4.5-megawatt generators, which could provide electricity to about 3,500 homes.

Plans for fish loss prevention and mitigation, as well as installing a park and boat launch, are also included.

The utility has estimated Enloe Dam would become economical in about 20 years.

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