|Map of the Proposed Dam Site,|
from the Seattle Times
Proponents estimate the dam will generate enough power for 10,000 homes in the area and tout the green energy of hydropower. The controversy, however, lies in the impact that a dam would have on salmon and other fish, paddling and other recreation, and the free-flowing nature of one of the most beloved rivers in the
Puget Sound. An additional concern is the intent to
add hydropower requiring a new dam on a free-flowing river, rather than
upgrading or adding hydropower capacity on existing structures.
|Photo by Tom O'Keefe|
The South Fork Skykomish is a well-decorated river. It has been designated as a State Scenic Waterway, listed as a Northwest Power and Conservation Council Protected Area, and recommended for federal designation as a Wild and
by the U.S. Forest Service.
According to opponents, the dam proposal would reduce two of the rivers most
iconic waterfalls – Scenic
and Canyon Falls
– to a trickle, and severely impact fish and wildlife habitat, water quality
and quantity, recreation, and aesthetic values.
“This proposal flies in the face of Washington state Scenic Rivers law, and the intent to protect one of the last free-flowing rivers in our state,” said Steve Starlund, of Washington State Parks, in the Seattle Times article.
A group of eight conservation and recreation organizations, including Washington Wild, sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to intervene and stop permitting for the
project. In that letter, they
site the substantial environmental impacts and minimal power generation. The
project may also not be economically feasible. Previous developers have applied
for a permit to dam the South Fork Skykomish, only to find that the river flows
would not generate significant electricity. Sunset
"It's just one of those truly majestic, magical places that really define our region. So many rivers have experienced industrial development, and this is one that has not. To put in at the base of
is a unique and special
experience, and the thought of blasting those rocks to me frankly is
sacrilegious." said Tom O'Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director of
American Whitewater, in the Seattle Times article. Sunset
|Photo by Tom O'Keefe|
To learn more about the Sunset Falls Dam project, watch this YouTube video.
The Sunset Falls Dam is not the only small hydropower project threatening some of our last remaining free flowing rivers and streams in the Cascades. A renewed emphasis on alternative energy sources, including hydropower, has sparked a “gold rush” for new small hydro development opportunities in our backcountry streams and rivers. In the very same watershed of the proposed Sunset Falls Dam, there are additional permit applications for upstream tributaries including –
and Barclay Creek. And
recently, the first new dam in 20 years was built on Youngs Creek, which is a
tributary to the main stem of the Martin
Creek . Skykomish
Elsewhere in the central Cascades, there is a proposed dam project on the
North Fork of the Snoqualmie river, which
has been found eligible and partly recommended for designation as a Wild and by the U.S. Forest Service. The
Black Canyon Dam Project poses many of the same issues as the Sunset Falls Dam
project, as a result is knee deep in controversy Scenic
19, there will meetings held in North Bend
to discuss the Black Canyon Dam. Please consider attending and voicing your
concerns about the project.
Date and Time:
June 19, 2012, Moring Scoping Meeting – and the Evening Scoping Meeting – .
Virtual Site Review
Date and Time:
June 19, 2012,
Location for all meetings:
More background information can be found here: