By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
INDEX — Dozens of people lined rural roads along the Skykomish River near Sunset Falls on Wednesday to show federal and local officials their opposition to a possible new mini-dam there.
The demonstrations were timed to greet a caravan of officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Snohomish County Public Utility District who were touring the area on the south fork of the river. Officials from the PUD were showing the federal group the potential site.
Some of the demonstrators were local residents, while others traveled there to voice their opinion. Some of the signs lining the gravel roads read “The River Cannot Speak for Itself,” “River For Sale” and “No Dam Has Ever Saved a Wild Salmon.”
The PUD has estimated that the seven-foot inflatable weir, pipeline, powerhouse and associated features will cost between $110 million and $170 million and bring power to an average of about 10,000 homes.
The PUD recently submitted a preliminary application for the project to the federal agency, which has deciding power on hydroelectric projects. The application set off a five-year data-gathering and study process.
Later, in the evening, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 people packed the fire station in tiny Index, a few miles from the potential dam site, to hear information about the project and speak their piece again. The federal agency was gathering public input as part of its fact-finding trip, said John Baummer, a fish biologist for the energy commission.
More than 30 people signed up to speak.
“This is our Walden Pond,” said Arthur Petersen, whose family has had a cabin for decades on the river, right at the proposed dam location.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.