Puyallup River: Electron Powerhouse Access Status

Posted: 10/27/2004
by Thomas O'Keefe

Access to the Puyallup River has long been of interest to recreational paddlers. Puget Sound Energy operates a powerhouse on the river that is located at a site well suited for access. This powerplant is exempted from FREC requirements so there is no formal opportunity to obtain access for recreation through a public process. After speaking with the Puget Sound Energy about the possibility of providing access at this site, however local volunteer Chris Wittenfeld drafted the following proposal (see below). At this time, PSE is not interested in providing access (see response below) but future opportunities may become available. The Washington Recreational Use Statute was designed of encourage landowners to provide recreational access by limiting liability (see Washington State under AW's liability toolbox).


American Whitewater is a non-profit 501(c)3 river conservation and recreation organization founded in 1954. We have over 6,000 individual members and 112 affiliate clubs, representing 150,000 whitewater paddlers across the nation. American Whitewater's mission is to conserve and restore America's whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. Here in the Puget Sound region our affiliate clubs include the Washington Kayak Club, University Kayak Club, The Mountaineers PadldleTrails Canoe Club, and the Washington Recreational River Runners.

American Whitewater and its local affiliates request that Puget Sound Energy consider a preliminary proposal for river access to the Puyallup River at the Electron Power Station. The Electron Power Station is located at point where the riverbed morphology changes and the river transitions from more challenging class IV+ rapids to much easier class II+ rapids. Because of this, the site is uniquely suited to serve as an ideal designated access to the river for recreational river runners who wish to experience the Puyallup River: it would primarily serve as a put-in for beginner trips, but could also serve as a take-out for those with permission to run the upper gorge section on land managed by the Campbell Group.

This proposed take-out/put-in site on the Puyallup River has been located below the main entrance gate and water storage tanks at the Electron Power Station. To access this site, one follows a dirt road off to the left, 400 feet below the main gate. The road makes a switch back and transitions to a wide trail continuing down to the river. The site and route from the main gate to the unload/loading parking area are more than 1000 feet from all PSE working areas: maintenance shop, generation plant and discharge pipes. Clear signage to orient paddlers to the load/unload parking area would ensure that whitewater users stay clear of all PSE operation areas. Security personnel, when allowing entry, could reinforce directions to the river access area and observe compliance from the entry gate. There would be no interference with the Electron Power Plant operations, other than the provision of gate access. In addition, the access policy and a route map would be made available through American Whitewater's web site. This has proven to be an effective means of providing the whitewater community with accurate and up-to-date information, and has worked well on other rivers where we must cross project lands (e.g. Simpson Resource Company on the Wynoochee River and Snohomish PUD on the Sultan River).

The road and trail to the river access point are currently usable, but could use some minor improvements. A short section of the trail needs some gravel, a small drainage ditch and pipe. Volunteers from the whitewater community could clear brush, small trees and rocks from the old roadbed trail. A small tractor could do the same work in a few hours, if one were available. Any minor improvements that could be made by PSE would be appreciated and a wonderful public relations effort. We would work with PSE in developing an appropriate public relations strategy to promote the efforts of this cooperative effort and recognize PSE's contribution to providing this important public access.



Sorry that this reply has taken so long. The proposal has been reviewed by affected entities within PSE.

The consensus was 1) that it would increase work load of operators, 2) that PSE potential liability would increase, and 3) that the area is "security sensitive".

We are not able to accept the proposal.

Thank you for the asking.


Lloyd Pernela
Manager Hydro Licensing / Compliance
Puget Sound Energy

Jennie Goldberg
3048 62ND AVE SW
SEATTLE, WA 98116-2706

Associated Projects

Puyallup Watershed (WA)
Major rivers of the Puyallup watershed include the Carbon, Puyallup, and White which drain the western and northern slopes of Mt. Rainier which we are working to preserve and protect.