Seattle City Light evacuates 711-MW Skagit hydropower project amidst wildfire

Ross Dam

Safety concerns raised by wildfires have forced utility Seattle City Light to evacuate employees from the town of Diablo, the nearby 711-MW Skagit hydropower complex and the North Cascades Institute's Environmental Learning Center.

The blaze, referred to as the Goodell Creek Fire, ignited earlier this week before making it to an area near Washington's Highway 20 across from Seattle City Light's Skagit administration building and the Gorge Dam powerhouse.

Seattle City Light said no injuries have been reported, and that all its employees and their families have been accounted for in the utility-owned towns of Newhalem and Diablo.

However, the fire has forced the company to shut down transmission lines connecting the Skagit complex's three dams -- the Gorge, Diablo and Ross -- to the grid, though their spillways have remained open to protect fish. The dams are being operated remotely.

The utility estimates that the inability to deliver power from Skagit's four powerhouses is costing about $100,000 per day, though the supply in Seattle, which receives about 21% of its energy from the project, will not be impacted.

Seattle City Light said six members of its Newhalem-Diablo Fire Brigade have been manning two engines and working with the National Park Service to protect property and the Gorge powerhouse.

The company's Fire Brigade and its 55-year history were highlighted in a recent issue of Hydro Review magazine.

For more dam safety news, visit here.

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