After more than three years of waiting the access to the Powerhouse run on the Snoqualmie River
is now open for public use. While this is a short run of less than a mile, it is a popular and
important section of river less than 30 miles from Seattle.
In April 2010, the boating community learned that Puget Sound Energy (PSE) intended to close the
river access at the Snoqualmie Falls Powerhouse in June of 2010 for an extended period while the
powerhouse was rebuilt. More than 40 public comments were filed with the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC) to express concern with the loss of this river section and to
request that FERC require a temporary river access during construction. As one of the most
important rivers for training and safety instruction, the loss of access was a major impact to
the regional paddling community. FERC ultimately ruled against requiring PSE to provide river
access during construction.
We are pleased to report that despite our frustrations with the length of the closure, PSE did
work with American Whitewater and regional clubs in designing the new access. The river access at
the downstream side of the powerhouse is marked by a sign and instead of a jumbled pile of
rip-rap as existed before, the contractor placed a pathway of flat stones that serve as steps
down to the water. An upgraded parking area, restrooms, bike racks (this is an easy bike
shuttle), and a boater drop-off area are all new features we worked to design. PSE consulted with
American Whitewater throughout the construction and provided opportunities for site tours that
allowed us to provide recommendations and feedback.
This project has been an important success because originally PSE cited security and operational
concerns with an access adjacent to the powerhouse, and proposed alternatives further downstream.
We successfully pushed for access adjacent to the Powerhouse, making the point that every rapid
on the short reach is important for instruction and training. While we originally requested a
formal access point upstream of the Powerhouse, FERC ruled against this citing "safety
issues". You can still work your way upstream to this site but we recommend doing so on
river left so you are not immediately in front of the powerhouse on river right.
The Snoqualmie River Powerhouse run is about one mile of the best training and practice water
that is easily accessible. No other class II reach in the area provides the diversity of features
for learning and practicing skills. The local paddling community felt the loss of the Powerhouse
run and today all are celebrating restored access.