PUD proposes alternative to dam on Sky River

INDEX — A controversial plan to build a mini-dam on a scenic stretch of the South Fork Skykomish River might become a little less controversial — at least from the point of view of the utility hoping to do the project.

Officials of the Snohomish County Public Utility District now say they can build the project near here without having a structure partially block and divert water — that enough water can be collected in a sharp bend in the river to be sent through a tunnel to a powerhouse downstream.

The previous plan called for pooling water behind a 7-foot, inflatable weir on the river above Sunset Falls before sending it through the 2,200-foot tunnel.

Removing the weir from the Sunset Falls project addresses aesthetic concerns, reduces construction time and cuts $10 million off the project, previously pegged at $133 million, according to the PUD.

“Visually, you really won’t see much,” spokesman Neil Neroutsos said. “Some times of the year, portions of the very top of the intake may be visible.”

One opponent says eliminating the weir wouldn’t help much.

“The bottom line is, if you’re going to produce hydropower in this river, you have to divert enough water form the river’s natural course and channel it to the turbines to make the hydropower. Any significant amount of hydropower you could create would affect salmon habitat,” said Andrea Matzke, who has a cabin near the proposed dam site.

The Tulalip Tribes have expressed concern that reducing water flow in the river could impede outward migration of juvenile salmon. That issue will be studied this spring, PUD officials say.

Nearby residents and environmental groups have opposed the project. They have also cited the fact that rock blasting will be necessary to build the tunnel, contending it could create dust, pollute the river and destabilize the terrain. Studies are expected to address these issues as well.

The new design also includes changes to the tunnel, Neroutsos said, making it narrower in places and reducing the amount of excavation necessary.

The utility has not formally applied with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the project but has submitted preliminary plans. The PUD is to discuss the new plan with the federal agency over the next couple of weeks, Neroutsos said.

The PUD buys more than 80 percent of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration and is looking to diversify power sources. The project could power up to 22,500 homes at maximum output, according to the PUD. The utility also recently received the go-ahead from FERC for a $26 million pilot project to install tidal power turbines in Admiralty Inlet.

More studies, 17 in all, lie ahead on the Sunset Falls project, and any decision is likely five years away, FERC officials have said.

In May, the PUD is planning to survey ratepayers about the project through its website.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; bsheets@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Snohomish County’s emergency radios are breaking down

A plan to convert to digital equipment is in the works with an estimated cost of up to $75 million.

Most Read