Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Thoughts on the Skykomish Hydropower Project
Since we first posted the link to the Save The Sky River two weeks ago, we've had some conversations with local biologists, looked at the facts and determined that with proper regulatory oversight the project probably wont have a major impact on wild fish in the South Fork Skykomish. The fact is, while we're concerned about new hydroelectric development the legal mandate from the ESA and state regulations means that the project should be held to the highest biological standards. The reality is, we live in an energy hungry society, and there is an urgent need to find energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.
Run of river hydro has the potential to be a viable source of clean energy if the industry is held to an exceedingly high regulatory standard. In BC we've seen how damaging the industry can be when it is developed with a total disregard for anadromous fish. For example the Kokish River project plans to divert water from 9 of the rivers 10 fish bearing kilometers posing an existential threat to the river's already fragile fish populations. But, when done correctly, these projects can tap an important source of clean, affordable energy.
The regulatory landscape in the US is very different, and the age of simply throwing up a dam, disregarding fish passage and hoping for the best is over. The fact is any new hydroelectric project will be subject to intense scrutiny by both the state and federal regulators. It will be required to include state of the art fish screens to prevent mortality to juvenile salmonids, and meet stringent in stream flow requirements. Snohomish PUD has also committed to funding a much needed replacement of the aging fish trap used to transport anadromous fish above Sunset Falls, and the operation of the trap throughout the life of the project.
We've been extremely encouraged by the response of the community to this and other issues and it is very clear that there is group of committed local advocates who are concerned about the future of the Skykomish. But we can't fight everything, and in doing so in this case, we may actually be shooting ourselves in the foot, expending valuable time and energy fighting a project with minimal impacts to fish that would provide a large source of sustainable energy. The project is in the very preliminary stages and alot of decisions have yet to be made, so lets make sure that the project is held to the highest environmental standards, and that it doesn't pose a threat to wild salmonids in the Skykomish. In doing so we can ensure that Snohomish PUD can meet the energy needs of the community with green energy while protecting the future of wild fish in the Sky.
Lots more information on Snohomish PUD's website: