The Snohomish County Public Utility District unveiled two new small hydro projects in Snoqualmie Valley Thursday. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

The Snohomish County Public Utility District unveiled two new small hydro projects in Snoqualmie Valley Thursday. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

PUD switches on two new hydro projects near Snoqualmie Falls

Together they generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes and are designed to be kind to fish.

SNOQUALMIE — The majestic waterfalls in the Snoqualmie Valley offer more than just spectacular hikes. The area also supplies neighboring Snohomish County with enough energy to power 10,000 homes miles away from the 1,000-foot drops that generate the megawatts.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District on Thursday dedicated two 6-megawatt hydroelectric plants fed by tributaries of the Snoqualmie River.

The Calligan Creek and Hancock Creek projects sit about five miles above the iconic falls. They will operate from fall until late spring when the creeks are reduced to a trickle. Some years the creeks are dry during the summer.

“The two projects are designed to both help us meet winter demand and future customer growth,” said Neil Neroutsos, a PUD spokesman.

With nearly 135 inches of rain a year, it’s an ideal spot for hydropower generation, he said.

Water is returned to the creek after producing power at the Calligan Creek Hydro Project powerhouse in King County. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Water is returned to the creek after producing power at the Calligan Creek Hydro Project powerhouse in King County. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Scott Spahr, a PUD manager, said the two sites were picked because of their location above Snoqualmie Falls — a natural barrier to salmon.

“It’s a small footprint and very deliberately located to have as small as an impact as we can,” Spahr said.

About 40 employees and others gathered to watch Thursday’s ceremony featuring PUD commissioners Sidney Logan and Kathleen Vaughn.

“Small hydro power, such as these, provide renewable energy that is cost-effective and that is carbon-free,” said Vaughn, the president of the commission.

The large blue pipes carry the water to the turbine inside the Calligan Creek Hydro Project powerhouse in King County. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

The large blue pipes carry the water to the turbine inside the Calligan Creek Hydro Project powerhouse in King County. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Known as run-of-the-river facilities, the projects divert only a portion of the creeks rather than damming the water. Once collected at intake, the water is sent through pipes to a powerhouse about a mile away.

There, a turbine uses the rushing water to generate power. The water is then returned to the creeks. Water not diverted will continue to flow along the natural stream course.

At each intake area, a fish ladder was constructed for the resident trout population. Diversion weirs were added to filter debris and prevent fish from entering. The PUD is required to monitor the trout.

“The sites are appealing — very steep terrain and an inhospitable environment for fish,” said Keith Binkley, a PUD natural resource manager.

Sidney Logan (left) and Kathleen Vaughn, Snohomish PUD commissioners, start the Calligan Creek Hydro Project turbine. The project is located in King County. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Sidney Logan (left) and Kathleen Vaughn, Snohomish PUD commissioners, start the Calligan Creek Hydro Project turbine. The project is located in King County. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

The Calligan Creek and Hancock Creek projects took two years to complete and cost about $60 million. The plants are nearly identical to a previous project built at Youngs Creek in the Sultan area.

“On average, the two new hydroelectric projects will provide about 0.8 percent of PUD’s energy supply,” Neroutsos said.

The public utility already operates three other hydroelectric plants, two in the Sultan area and one in Monroe. A hydroelectric project at Sunset Falls near Index was canceled in April.

All five of the hydroelectric power plants are operated remotely from the Henry M. Jackson Hydroelectric Project in the Sultan River Basin.

In total, hydropower makes up nearly 87 percent of the county’s power supply, much of which comes from the Bonneville Power Administration.

“It’s a pretty magical operation to take moving water to spin a turbine and have lights come on in homes in Snohomish County,” Spahr said.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Sid Logan (left) and Rob Toyer
PUD candidates focus on rates, broadband and renewables

Incumbent Sidney Logan faces former Marysville City Council member Rob Toyer for the District 1 seat.

Motorcycle rider dies after collision with car near Stanwood

The investigation of the fatal crash on Pioneer Highway closed stretches of it to drivers.

Deputies search for suspect after shooting south of Everett

One man was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A shooter reportedly fled.

Bill Bruch (left ) and Dave Paul
First-term Dem faces a GOP challenger for House seat in 10th

Rep. Dave Paul and Bill Bruch differ widely on the response to COVID-19.

Ballot drop box in Mill Creek hit by truck

The box was damaged Friday. Ballots inside will be counted. Officials gave other dropoff options.

FILE - In this July 31, 2015 file photo, an orca leaps out of the water near a whale watching boat in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. Habitat protections for an endangered population of orcas would be greatly expanded under a proposal to be advanced by NOAA Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Millions have been spent on orca recovery: Is it working?

Restoring destroyed salmon habitat is the key to regaining Southern Resident killer whale numbers.

This firetruck serves the South County Fire District. (City of Lynnwood)
Two fire districts want to change how they make money

South County Fire wants to do a benefit charge, while Sky Valley Fire looks for a levy lid lift.

Sawyer West was last seen Oct. 16 at Highway 99 and 220th Street Southwest in Lynnwood. (Courtesy Carol Crane)
Search continues for missing man last seen in Lynnwood

Family, friends and police ask that people keep an eye out for Sawyer West, who has schizophrenia.

Most Read