Sullivan Creek (WA) Releases Begin September 3, 2014
Sullivan Lake in northeastern Washington State has long been drawn down in the late fall for hydropower generation at other dams downstream on the Pend Oreille River. Through collaborative negotiations with American Whitewater and a suite of local, state, and national groups the fall releases were spread out and changed to begin in September. The new schedule is better for whitewater paddling, downstream irrigation and hydropower, economics, and fisheries. This year the releases will begin on September 3 and will be more variable than normal as the power company is lowering the reservoir to work on Sullivan Dam. Releases should continue each day for at least a couple months.
If you are considering paddling Sullivan's Class IV and V lower canyon please check the gage that was also installed and provided online as part of the negotiations, and be aware of the run's committing nature.
Sullivan Lake is actually a natural lake on a tributary of Sullivan Creek that is raised 25 feet by a dam at the lakes outlet. The removal of a second related dam, Mill Pond Dam which is on Sullivan Creek, was also a key part of the negotiations. The engineering of the dam removal is currently being developed and removal should begin in a couple years. This dam removal is intended to improve stream temperatures, sediment transport, and fish passage, and to resolve financial and legal issues.
The negotiations were kicked off when the dam owner sought to retire their federal license to generate hydropower using a historic diversion flume that ran from Mill Pond Dam to a powerhouse at the bottom of the gorge. The project fell into disrepair due to the unstable slopes and had not generated power since the mid-1950's. Those of us involved in the negotiations sought solutions that were good for fish, recreation, and the rural Public Utility District that owned the dam (as well as their ratepayers). The creative settlement agreement that resulted from these talks accomplishes these goals in spades.
While work on the dam is affecting this year's releases, in the future Sullivan Creek will flow at optimal paddling levels for much of each fall.
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.