Controversial Sunset Falls hydro power project on Skykomish River is dead
April 11, 2018
Updated with new information
CLICK TO ENLARGE. The spot along the Skykomish River where the proposed “small footprint dam” would have been located
CLICK TO ENLARGE. Flyer produced by Friends of the Skykomish shows approximate size, super imposed on large football stadium, of the underground intake facility for the proposed Sunset Falls hydro project.
(INDEX, WA.) – The long in the works proposed Sunset Falls hydro power project on the South Fork of the Skykomish River east of Index is no more.
It’s deader than dead.
After seven long years of trying to work the deal – complete with lots of push back from locals in the upper Sky Valley and environmental groups - the Snohomish County Public Utility District commissioners agreed at a meeting yesterday to close out their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission application and cancel the project, according to a report by SeattlePI.com
The proposed dam would have rerouted a 1.1 mile stretch of the South Fork of the Skykomish through an underground tunnel for delivery of the water to a powerhouse at the base of Sunset Falls.
See photo at right that shows size of the project superimposed over a football field.
With the cancellation of this project, the report says supporters of conserving the Skykomish River Valley, the area “Traversed by U.S. 2 en route to Stevens Pass, have scored a series of acquisitions and political victories” in recent years.
Those victories include the Heybrook Ridge win where locals in the Index area succeeded in raising money to protect a ridge above the town of Index from being timber clear cut.
More here .
During the noon hour Wednesday, Snohomish County PUD released the following statement about the project
“After a thorough review of its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the Snohomish County PUD Board of Commissioners has directed its staff to pursue a range of future energy resources identified in the plan, with a continued emphasis on cost-effective conservation and renewable energy resources.
PUD staff was directed not to pursue a final federal license for the Sunset Falls hydropower project on the South Fork Skykomish River at this time. The IRP, a long range energy planning document, has forecasted that on an annual basis, over the next 10 years, due to expected energy conservation, the PUD will not need the additional energy that the Sunset Hydropower Project would provide. The IRP is expected to be formally adopted by the PUD Commission in May.
“Our planning process has concluded that our considerable success with energy conservation by the utility and its customers has helped minimize the need for new energy resources,” said PUD Commission President Kathy Vaughn. “However, if higher growth occurs over the longer term,10 years or beyond, the PUD could seek out additional energy resources in the mid-2020s time period.”
Since 2009, the PUD has worked to study and assess the potential for a hydropower project on the South Fork Skykomish River. Working under the guidelines set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the PUD sought input from a broad range of stakeholders, including interested members of the public, federal and state agencies, and local tribes.
Despite the value of the hydropower project – as a local, carbon-free resource that fits well with higher customer winter demand needs – the PUD has decided not to pursue a final application with FERC for the Sunset Hydropower project.
The research of the Sunset Project was part of a larger effort by the PUD to identify viable hydropower projects in the region. In 2009-2010 the utility did considerable work to develop a list of 140 sites in four counties in Western Washington. This list was then short-listed to 30 sites and then to about a dozen.
Numerous stakeholders provided input to the site reviews. For three sites, FERC draft licenses applications were filed, including the Sunset Project. Two other projects were subsequently developed at Hancock and Calligan Creeks above Snoqualmie Falls, northeast of North Bend, Wash.
The PUD has had considerable success operating hydropower projects in Western Washington. Both its Jackson Hydropower Project and its Youngs Creek Project have been honored for their design and operations by environmental and energy industry organizations.”