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Don’t reach for the Sky

by Kirk Werner on June 19, 2013

WA—The town of Index is said to have a population of 180. On Wednesday June 12th the population seemed to have temporarily doubled, or came dam close to doing so. It was on this date that I attended a meeting in the Index Fire Hall to hear citizen comments with regard to a proposed dam on the South Fork of the Skykomish River. The result was standing room only inside and outside of the Fire Hall.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was on hand to hear public comments on the scope of the project which is being proposed by the Snohomish County PUD. The project is listed as the Sunset Fish Passage and Energy Project #14295-00.

Before we go any further I’ll issue this disclaimer: I am not a member of the press. My job (which is really not a job at all) is not to report objectively on this project.  I am here to give you a very nutshell description of the project as I understand it, and to state my opposition because this is my blog and I am opposed to this dam project. So there.

If you want to read an unbiased article about the proposed project, I recommend this article from the Monroe Monitor, March 12. 2013: Dam: Environmental Boon or Bust? Here’s another article from the Everett Herald, June 15, 2013: But many factors will be weighed in considering a proposed mini-dam.

For me personally, here are the arguments I use in my opposition of the project:

1. First off, this proposed dam is not a concrete hydroelectric structure. It is an inflatable diversion weir that would redirect water into a large intake chamber where the water would then plummet some 2000+ feet to a power generating plant below Sunset Falls. This weir will not function 12 months of the year. In fact it will be taken offline when natural river flows are at their lowest, from July-October. It seems to me that a source for generating power should be able to meet the peak demands for electricity. In this case the it seems that the highest demands would be when customers are using air conditioners/heat pumps during the hottest months of the year (July, August and September).  I don’t pretend to know much, but something seems amiss here.

2. The water intake chamber would be a 19 foot diameter tunnel, over 2000 feet in length, that will be blasted through the granite bedrock. The potential for geological problems with this is not insignificant— naturally occurring levels of arsenic in the rock could be released into the river. Index lies within a region that has the potential for significant seismic events—think BIG earthquakes. Once blasted you cannot convince me that the structural integrity of the bedrock will not have been compromised.

3. Sunset Falls is a migratory fish barrier. Salmon returning to spawn can go no further than the base of the falls so they spawn in the gravel below the falls. Messing with the flows over the falls at all will affect the salmon redds. Redirecting the natural flow of the water will change the makeup of the stream bed.  It can’t not have an impact on the fish that spawn there. Oh, and the upper Sky is also a stronghold for the endangered bull trout, FYI.

4. Cost estimates are $110 million to $170 million for this project that will only generate power for about 10,000 homes. That’s a chunk of change right there for a power source that is not sustainable. Al Gore’s Global Warming Climate change is affecting the annual snowpack. We don’t know what the future holds for that. I believe the PUD needs to explore other means of sustainable energy production: solar, nuclear—I don’t know. But I know this dam is a bad idea.

And if by chance I am off the mark in any or all of my assertions listed above, here is my final argument that nobody can refute:

5. The Skykomish is a beautiful place: a wild and scenic river and one of few un-dammed rivers in the world. Let’s leave it this way. Save the Sky River

Leave this is place alone.

 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelby Sim June 20, 2013 at 7:04 AM

I’m with you on this one for sure. Have seen some terrible results of dams that were supposed to be great for everything and everybody…never really saw the benefits myself, just a lot of sad situations for the fish and the people in the area. A lot of States and Provinces have the same sad stories.

I’ve no clue why they would want to use a dam like this…it just sounds wrong. And will be catastrophic for the fish. By all means this needs to be stopped. My experiance has been that by the time we hear they are planning a dam, the project is already in the works and they are just doing us the courtesy of letting us know before they start blasting. I hope thats not the situation here.

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Kirk Werner June 20, 2013 at 8:44 AM

I can’t think of any good that would come from this proposed project, and I hope that it hasn’t been slipped past us already. Allegedly a permit to study the area has been issued but nothing more. That is, if you believe what the gov’t tells you.

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Chuck Atkins June 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM

Al Gore’s Global Climate change? What the hell does that mean? Is that some derisive characterization like Obamacare? Why is climate change a possession of Al Gore? Sounds dismissive to me. I find it funny that people who love rivers and the fish that are in them have so little regard for conservation. Things that will impact our fisheries the most …like mining projects …fracking and Global warming are ignored by Republicans that love to fish. Dick Cheney loved to fish the snake river until he got his mechanical heart and became Darth Vader. A guy with a mechanical heart and no soul…the perfect example of a Republican angler!

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Kirk Werner June 20, 2013 at 8:41 AM

If you notice, it says Al Gore’s Global Warming climate change. I always get confused as to what it was he invented and realized that it was the internet, not Global Warming. Thus thus the strikethrough.

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Chuck Atkins June 23, 2013 at 6:17 AM

Yeah, you’re worried about some stupid claim by Al Gore . I’m worried about how many of our kids get killed in stupid wars and what kind of environment the ones that aren’t will end up with. I know one thing about Gore; he put Climate change in the popular lexicon. Now everybody acknowledges it…..unless you’re a anti science hillbilly. Years from now maybe he will get the respect he is due when schpanky is in a rocking chair and there are no steelhead left anywhere because we decided cars and big screen TV’s were more important than clean air and water. I know one thing….it’s not Democrats that are cutting funding for all forms of conservation so they can give the pentagon more money they don’t need.

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Kirk Werner July 3, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Don’t worry. ‘Bout a thing. Cause every little thing, gonna be all right.

Well, maybe not. But I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do: go fishing. Suggest you do the same.

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Kirk @ River Mud June 30, 2013 at 8:54 PM

I’m sensing that the light hearted dig at Al Gore was less appreciated than KW hoped.

I sure chuckled, and I’ve not only worked on climate science projects (trying to measure impacts on wetlands and forests), but I believe it’s a critical issue for the next few generations (and sadly, the horse may be out of the barn as far as getting this problem under control).

Take a deep breath, everybody.

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Kirk Werner July 3, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Is all good here at the UA. I’m like my favorite President, Ronny Reagan: Teflon. Nothing sticks to me for long. Like a duck’s back, the water slides right off. Quick- get me another metaphor!

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Brett Colvin July 3, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Kirk: I agree with Chuck. Except for the part where he feels your obviously humorous remark is some kind of anti-liberal manifesto. Oh, and the part where he compares Dick Cheney to Darth Vader, because Vader clearly had some good in him and never accidentally cauterized a bystander with his light saber. I also take issue with…well, let’s just say that I strongly agree with the way Chuck uses prepositions and interrogative sentences.

In terms of the blog post – thanks for raising awareness of the issue. My own recent posts have focused on the weighty matters of, literally, a new fly reel and the definition of “shatscatter.” I appreciate you taking the time to bring attention to what is clearly a threat to this fishery.

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Kirk Werner July 3, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Seal of approval issued.

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