Okanogan County Public Utility District commissioners kicked the proverbial Enloe Dam can down the road Monday night by failing to take a final stand on electrification of the structure.
About 100 people turned out to hear if commissioners would approve rebuilding and relicensing the dam’s powerplant or if it would scrap the entire project. But neither opponents nor proponents got an answer. After more than an hour of input from the audience (including a representative of the federal Bureau of Land Management), commissioners balked.
The delayed decision-making comes with a price — the longer it takes to make a decision, the more powerplant supplies will cost. By the same token, the longer it takes for the utility to decide to breach the dam, the more expensive hiring a contractor and cleanup crews will be.
Utility ratepayers deserve an answer once and for all on whether Enloe will again generate power. But ratepayers can’t lay all the blame for the indecisiveness at the feet of the three utility commissioners.
Part of the blame can be put on the Bureau of Land Management. According to testimony Monday, the agency does not know if the dam would actually have to be removed should the utility decide not to re-energize the powerplant.
Rights-of-way agreements inked after the dam’s construction require the owner to remove any improvements should a decision be made to not license the structure and generate power. But the bureau — which is supposed to have the original paperwork for rights-of-way agreements at the time of the dam’s construction — cannot definitively say the dam would have to be breached. And federal officials do not immediately know where to locate that documentation.
Those documents are key to making the right decision for ratepayers. And they are documents that the utility should have had long before getting to this point.
Whether opposed or supportive of the proposed re-energizing of Enloe Dam, ratepayers should demand the Bureau of Land Management make locating those documents among its highest local priorities. They should let the agency know that this Enloe battle has raged for too long.
Ratepayers deserve a decision once and for all on re-electrification of Enloe Dam.