New Hydropower Project Proposed for North Fork Snoqualmie

posted June 4, 2011
by Thomas O'Keefe

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On March 14, 2011, Black Canyon Hydro, LLC filed an application for a preliminary permit proposing to study the feasibility of the Black Canyon Hydroelectric Project to be located on the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River, WA. This section of river is well known to paddlers as Ernie's Gorge--a regionally significant class V whitewater run (Take the Video Tour of the River). This is not the first time a hydropower project has been proposed for this reach. In October 1982 the City of Bellevue received a preliminary permit (P-5926) to study the river for water supply and hydropower development and in 1985 they filed a license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that was ultimately rejected. The river has been recommended by the Forest Service as a Wild and Scenic River, is adjacent to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Mt. Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, is on a reach identified as a Protected Area from hydropower development by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and flows through the Snoqualmie Forest protected from development by conservation easement purchased by King County with the goal "to prevent any use of the forestland that will significantly impair or interfere with its conservation value."

The current proposed project would consist of the following:
(1) an approximately 35-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall inflatable dam;
(2) a 90-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall diversion intake structure;
(3) a 9-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall fish ladder;
(4) a 7,300-foot-long, 12-foot-diameter penstock;
(5) a 60-foot-long, 100-foot-wide metal powerhouse with two Francis turbine units, one rated at 16-megawatts (MW), the other rated at 9 MW;
(6) a 150-footlong, 40-foot-wide tailrace;
(7) a 0.75-mile extension of the existing logging road;
(8) a 4.2-mile-long, 115-kilovolt (kV) transmission line; and
(9) appurtenant facilities.
The estimated annual generation of the project would be 90,000 megawatt-hours.

The developer has filed an application for a preliminary permit with FERC. The sole purpose of a preliminary permit, if issued, is to grant the permit holder priority to file a license application during the permit term. A preliminary permit does not authorize the permit holder to perform any land-disturbing activities but does allow the applicant to undertake a more comprehensive review of the site for a period of 3 years prior to submitting a formal license application. On May 11, 2011 FERC issued a notice opening a 60 day comment period on the application for the preliminary permit.

American Whitewater will be filing a motion to intervene in this project. Individuals and other organizations can also provide comment or intervene. There are three options available:

1) For those who wish to file comprehensive comments or a motion to intervene you can register on the FERC website for eFiling. Registering allows you to sign up for the docket (in this case P-14110) 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-14110. 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-14110) 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:




Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Rivers


Associated Projects

  • North Fork Snoqualmie- WA
    American Whitewater is committed to the conservation of the North Fork Snoqualmie.
  • Small Hydropower
    We work to prevent damming of treasured headwater streams paddlers enjoy for small hydropower development.