American Whitewater Files in Opposition to Sunset Falls Hydro (WA)
Earlier today American Whitewater was joined by Alpine Lakes Protection Society, American Rivers,
North Cascades Conservation Council, Sierra Club – Washington State Chapter, The
Mountaineers, and Washington Wild in formally opposing the proposed hydropower project on the
South Fork of the Skykomish River at Sunset Falls.
Development of the Sunset Falls Hydroelectric Project by Snohomish PUD would have many environmental impacts, including impacts on aesthetics, recreation, and resident fish and wildlife habitat and species. The project would greatly reduce flows on a scenic cascade-and-falls combination and would result in construction impacts from building a new 1.1 mile bypass, a 2000 ft. by 19 ft. diameter intake tunnel, a semi-underground powerhouse, a 2 acre impoundment (reservoir) and a 8.5 transmission line to the existing substation in Gold Bar.
The Skykomish River is part of the Washington State Scenic River system, the legislative purpose of which is to “protect and preserve the natural character of such rivers and fulfill other conservation purposes.” Rivers in the system “shall be preserved in as natural a condition as practical and that overuse of such rivers, which tends to downgrade their natural condition, shall be discouraged.” In addition the section of the Skykomish River that includes Sunset Falls is in a Northwest Power and Conservation Council Protected Area from hydropower development, and has been recommended to Congress for designation as a National Wild and Scenic River for its Scenic, Recreation, Fish, and Wildlife values by the U.S. Forest Service. Wild and Scenic suitability, protected area status, and status as a State Scenic Waterway each constitute relevant in-place plans and strategies to enhance and protect the aquatic, aesthetic, habitat, recreational and conservation resources of the Skykomish River.
By early spring we anticipate that federal regulators will issue a decision on whether to issue a preliminary permit allowing Snohomish PUD to begin formal investigations of the site. Several members of the whitewater paddling community attended public meetings and provided comment on the proposal.