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Action Alert: Comment on Hydropower Proposal for Sunset Falls (WA)

Posted: 06/05/2013
By: Thomas O'Keefe


On March 21, 2013 Snohomish PUD filed a Pre-Application Document and Notice of Intent to seek a hydropower license to dam the South Fork Skykomish River and divert flows around Sunset Falls. Sunset Falls is well known to paddlers as the traditional starting point for the run known simply as the "Sky" and is recognized in the book Whitewater Classics. The powerhouse would be constructed by blasting away the bedrock that forms the traditional seal launch into the pool at the base of Sunset Falls.
This is not the first time a hydropower project has been proposed for this reach. Puget Sound Energy considered the site in the early 20th century and then Snohomish PUD developed a proposal in the early 1980s that was followed by more proposals by private developers and Tacoma Public Utilities. The river, including the section at Sunset Falls, has been recommended by the Forest Service as a Wild and Scenic River, is identified as a Protected Area from hydropower development by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and is recognized as the only Puget Sound river in the Washington State Scenic River system.
The proposed hydropower development would consist of the following new facilities:
(1) The Dam: a 7-foot-high, 260-foot-long diversion weir with pneumatically-operated bottom-hinged crest gates;
(2) The Reservoir: a 2-acre impoundment with a normal water surface elevation of 650 feet mean sea level (msl);
(3) The Diversion: an intake structure with three 15-foot-high, 30-foot-wide, 190-footlong tunnels with slide gates and trashracks with 4-inch bar spacing; a 75-foot-high, 120-foot-wide, 200-foot-long cavern structure with three V-shaped fish screens and trashracks with 1-inch bar spacing; a 2,235-foot-long, 19.5-foot-diameter unlined, horseshoe-shaped power tunnel;
(4) The Powerhouse: a 60-foot-wide, 115-foot-long powerhouse containing
two 15-MW vertical Francis turbine generating units for a total installed capacity of 30 MW; a 15-foot-high, 30-foot-wide, 154-foot-long tailrace tunnel; 
(5) Transmission Lines: a 75-foot-wide, 100-foot-long switchyard adjacent to the powerhouse; (9) an 8.2-mile-long, 115-kilovolt three-phase overhead transmission line to transmit project power to the regional grid; and
(6) Access Road: an access road leading from an existing road to the cavern structure.
Snohomish PUD has filed their Notice of Intent to seek a license for this project and their Pre-Application Document that formally initiates the 5.5 year public process to secure a license for hydropower development at the site. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioned has provided public notice of the filing and scheduled a set of meetings and a site tour open to the public. Any individual can attend these meetings to learn about the project and provide formal input.
Environmental Site Review
Date and Time: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 2:00 p.m.
Location: Gold Bar Park and Ride Lot
Intersection of State Road 2 and 2nd Street, Gold Bar, WA 98251
Phone Number: (425) 783-1709
Evening Scoping Meeting
Date and Time: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:00 p.m.
Location: Index Fire Department
512 Avenue A, Index, WA 98256
Phone Number: (360) 793-0866
Daytime Scoping Meeting
Date and Time: Thursday, June 13, 2013, 10:00 a.m.
Location: Washington Department of Ecology Headquarters
300 Desmond Drive SE, Lacey, WA 98503
Phone Number: (360) 407-6000
In addition to these meetings, there are three options for filing written comments. These comments are due by July 19th, 2013.
1) For those who wish to file comprehensive comments you can register on the FERC website for eFiling. Registering allows you to sign up for the docket (in this case P-14295) and you will be notified of all filings and future opportunities to comment on the project. We recommend this option for those who want to carefully track the development of this project.
2) For those who do not wish to register but who would like to file a comment of less than 6,000 characters you can use the eComment system. You will want to file your comment with docket P-14295. You must still include your name and contact information at the end of your comments.
3) For those who wish to mail a hard copy of comments you can mail your comments to Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20426. Be sure to reference the docket number (for this project it is P-14295) in your introductory paragraph so that your comment is filed correctly.
Additional Information
For those who wish to review additional information on the project, the following documents can be accessed from the FERC website:
March 21, 2013
May 20, 2013

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
Full Profile


Associated Rivers

Skykomish, S. Fork WA

Associated Projects

Sunset Falls Hydropower Development

Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River has been proposed for hydropower development.

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