Washington issues water quality certificate for 9-MW Enloe

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued final Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification for the proposed 9-MW Enloe hydroelectric project in eastern Washington.

Clean Water Act certification by the state is a major prerequisite to licensing of a hydroelectric project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Okanogan County Public Utility District seeks to license a new project at the existing Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River.

"Section 401 of the Clean Water Act requires non-federal projects to obtain a certification that the project will comply with the state's water quality standards for aquatic life, including temperature and dissolved oxygen," the Washington DOE said. "The certification incorporates 10 separate management plans that the PUD must follow to address fish needs, water quality, construction requirements, aquatic invasive species, revegetation, and wetlands protection."

FERC staff issued a final environmental assessment in August 2011 recommending the Enloe project (No. 12569) be licensed.

Enloe Dam originally generated electricity from 1923 to 1958 when it was decommissioned because a transmission line brought less expensive hydropower to Okanogan County. Okanogan PUD obtained a hydropower license for the project in 1983 that was rescinded at the PUD's request in 1986 due to concerns about project costs and disagreements about upstream fish passage.

Third attempt to license project

The current proceeding is the third attempt by Okanogan PUD to license Enloe. The previous attempt failed in 2000, when FERC rescinded the newly issued license due to a mandatory requirement for fish ladders by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

NMFS had insisted the licensee must build fish ladders to transport anadromous fish past the project into upstream reaches where there was no historic evidence that anadromous fish had ever migrated due to a 20-foot-tall waterfall downstream.

Upstream fish passage at the site is opposed by British Columbia, which fears possible introduction of anadromous fish upstream into Canada would harm its resident wild fish. Seven bands of the Okanogan Nation also argued that native fish stocks could be harmed and that Okanogan legends say anadromous species did not historically migrate into the Similkameen.

A dozen years later, in the current proceeding, neither NMFS nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring upstream fish passage, although, as in all hydro licenses, they reserve their authority to require fish passage in the future.

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