Final Approval Granted for Sullivan Creek Dam Removal (WA)
Yesterday, Federal approval was granted for the removal of Millpond Dam on Northeast Washington’s Sullivan Creek. Millpond Dam is a 134-foot-long, 55-foot-high concrete dam with an 850-foot-long, 10-foot-high earthen dike that currently creates a 63-acre reservoir. Millpond Dam has blocked Sullivan Creek since 1909, and removal should be completed within the next 5 years.
Dam removal settlement talks began in 2008 when American Whitewater, the US Forest Service, and the State of Washington successfully challenged a federal decision to give up jurisdiction over the dam, which had not generated power since 1956. As the settlement parties struggled with how to protect local ratepayers of the small Public Utility District that owns the dam from bearing the costs of removal, a compelling idea surfaced. Sullivan Creek flows into a reservoir on the Pend d'oreille River that is formed by Seattle City and Light’s (SCL) enormous Boundary Dam, which happened to be undergoing relicensing. Settlement talks expanded to include SCL, who ultimately agreed to fund the removal of Millpond Dam as mitigation for their project’s ongoing operation. Settlement was reached in March of 2010.
The removal of Millpond Dam is expected to benefit native redband and cutthroat trout, as well as mountain whitefish, by improving stream temperatures, restoring sediment to the areas downstream of the dam, and likely restoring fish passage. In addition, the dam removal will expose whitewater rapids not seen for over a century. American Whitewater produced images predicting what the restored area might look like as a means of stimulating conversation among local stakeholders.
In addition to the removal of Millpond Dam, the Settlement Agreement and new federal order require the construction of a cold-water release pipe and a new release schedule for Sullivan Dam, which will remain in place at the outlet of Sullivan Lake. These measures will improve downstream fish habitat, and will provide significant paddling opportunities in September and October in the Class IV/V canyon section of Sullivan Creek. Details can be found on the gage description secion of the AW Sullivan Creek webpage. Lastly, significant wood and rock habitat structures will be added to sections of Sullivan Creek up and downstream of the canyon, and the design of these structures will consider AW’s recreational considerations.
This project is one of the most exciting and creative projects we have had the privilege of working on. The people involved – utility representatives, state and federal agency personnel, NGO staffers, and members of the public – each brought ideas and energy to the process and considered proposals with open minds. The result is good for the river, local citizens, paddlers, and the dam owners.
Now the fun part starts! American Whitewater will continue our active role in implementing the removal of Millpond Dam and the other elements of the Settlement Agreement.
Great News For Sullivan Creek! (WA)
Sullivan Creek Survey and Video (WA)
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.