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Dam would be costly boondoggle for Okanogan County

Letter to the Editor

 


At this time of politics gone wild, let’s turn our attention to a significant local issue that we actually have the power to control: Enloe Dam. I’m amazed how the desire to “have our own dam” has become more important than the simple facts. 

Over the past 10 years the Okanogan PUD has spent countless hours and approximately $14 million to resurrect Enloe Dam. The PUD plans to spend $40 million to $45 million more to get the dam to produce electricity. After all that, the dam will have a maximum generating capacity of only 9 megawatts (MW). The average capacity is projected to be a meager 4.5 MW.

Apparently, other power companies realized that Enloe Dam is a losing proposition. When it sought bids to design, build and operate the powerhouse, the PUD received no acceptable proposals. PUD commissioners traveled to meet with representatives of power companies to promote the reenergizing of Enloe Dam. No companies were convinced of the merits of the project. More recently, Energy Northwest considered Enloe Dam. They concluded that our PUD’s cost estimate of $40 million could be 40 percent low.

If Energy Northwest is correct, the cost of Enloe Dam power to Okanogan County residents would be 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour. Our current rate is 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour.

Enloe Dam was built during the early 1920s. Once large hydro projects were constructed along the Columbia River and power cost less, Enloe Dam became uneconomical to operate. Now, with the advent of wind and solar generation, as well as upgrades to existing facilities, the potential power generated at Enloe Dam ranges from insignificant to a costly liability.

For example, the turbine and generator upgrades at the third powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam will result in an additional 250 MW of generating capacity (above and beyond Grand Coulee’s existing capacity of 6,089 MW.) That power is available at less than half the cost of Enloe power and with no additional operating cost, construction cost and environmental liability.

Guess who will pay to keep this outdated dam operational. The price of power generated from Enloe Dam will not be competitive on the open market. The construction costs and the nearly $1 million annual operating costs will fall upon the shoulders and reach deep into the wallets of the people of Okanogan County.

The value of Enloe’s power production was determined to be zero in 1959 when the dam was decommissioned. The value today and in the future is even less. As responsible public servants, the Okanogan PUD commissioners owe it to Okanogan County residents and rate payers to drop this costly boondoggle.

Jack Burchard

Okanogan

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