On December 1st Black Canyon Hydro LLC filed its License Application for the Black Canyon
Hydropower Project (FERC No. P-14110) on the North Fork Snoqualmie River (read
). If constructed, this project would involve dewatering Ernie’s Gorge
and putting it in a pipe to generate hydropower. This section of the river is a whitewater gem
close to Seattle, and American Whitewater has been engaged in the process since the project was
proposed in 2011.
Ernie's Gorge is a special place, where a number of state and federal agencies have formally
recognized its value. The US Forest Service found this segment of the river eligible for the
federal Wild and Scenic system, and recommended it for designation. Additionally, the Northwest
Power and Conservation Council identified it as an area that is protected from hydropower. The
river also forms the border for the Department of Natural Resources Mt. Si Natural Resources
Conservation Area, which includes some of the best remaining intact old-growth riparian forest at
low elevation in the western Cascades. Finally, the lands along the river are protected by a
conservation easement held by King County that specifically prohibits hydropower projects of the
Despite the concern over the impact of the hydropower project on these values, federal regulators
have allowed the process to move forward. Paddler’s voices have been important throughout
this process so far, providing written comments and attending public meetings however formal
environmental review has yet to be initiated. That review process will begin with the filing and
acceptance of the license application.
American Whitewater believes that the North Fork Snoqualmie should remain in its natural
free-flowing condition and industrial development of this canyon is not in the public interest.
It will be important for paddlers to weigh in again during the next phase of the process.
Recently federal regulators recommended against licensing a project on the Bear River in Idaho
that was similarly recognized for its conservation value. We are optimistic that the same logic
will apply here but only if we speak up and engage in the proceeding.
We expect that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will provide formal notice of the
license application and solicit comments from the public soon. Hang tight and we will let you
know when the public comment period is initiated.
If you would like to stay informed on this project, receive notifications of filings, and be
notified of opportunities to provide comment you can eSubscribe with FERC. Just set up an online
account following the steps here and subscribe to docket P-14110.