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Great News For Sullivan Creek! (WA)

Posted: 03/21/2008
by Kevin Colburn

Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overturned a previous decision they had made that would have allowed the owner of the dams, flumes, and powerhouse on Sullivan Creek to simply abandon the project.  The ruling came in response to rehearing challenges filed by American Whitewater, the United States Forest Service, and the State of Washington. 


FERC states in the decision: "The Forest Service, Washington DFW, and American Whitewater argue that the existing license is valid, and that the Commission must provide for the orderly disposition of the Sullivan Creek Project through a license surrender or decommissioning proceeding...  As discussed above, we agree that the Sullivan Creek Project requires licensing and that the District must therefore apply to surrender the license." 


FERC further clarified that "...So that we can ensure that the project site is left in an appropriate condition, the District (the owner) cannot simply walk away at the conclusion of the license term, but must file a surrender application. As part of the surrender process, the District must obtain a special use authorization from the Forest Service for any project works that will remain on federal land after the effective date of the surrender.  We therefore reverse the determination in the July 18, 2007 Order that the current license will expire by its terms with no further action required by the licensee or the Commission."  


Sullivan Creek is located in far northeastern Washington, and is home to lush forests, rare and endangered species like bull trout, and some great paddling.  The creek has a Class II upper section and a Class IV/V lower gorge.  It appears highly likely that the Millpond dam, wooden flume, and powerhouse will have to be removed.  Doing so will restore passage for bull trout and other fish, and will protect and restore the gorge from potential impacts of the flume. It appears possible at least that Sullivan Dam, on Sullivan Lake  and Outlet Creek, may remain in place.  Had  American Whitewater and our agency partners not challenged this decision, the project could have been abandoned or operated in a manner that severely impacted the creek. 


We would like to thank the Natural Heritage Institute and our other Hydropower Reform Coalition partners for their superb assistance on this project.  We would also like to thank the Forest Service and Washington State for standing up for Sullivan Creek.  As is often the case, the FERC decision merely marks the beginning of a new phase of this issue.  AW will be working with volunteers, the agencies, the dam owner, and others to chart the future of the dams, flume, and powerhouse.  This is a great day for Sullivan Creek.  


  • AW's Request for Rehearing regarding a FERC decision to give up their jurisdiction over the Sullivan Creek Project, located in NE Washington.

  • Sullivan Creek Rehearing Decision

    FERC's response to a rehearing request filed by AW, USFS and Washington State, regarding the licensee's obligation to license or surrender their project.

Associated Rivers


Associated Projects

Sullivan Creek (WA)
Two dams in the Sullivan Creek watershed no longer generate power. One was removed in 2017 as the result of a 2010 Settlement Agreement.