Hydropower Development at Ernies: Developer Continues to Pursue (WA)

posted December 11, 2015
by Thomas O'Keefe

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


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