Thinking of Speaking at a PUD Commissioner’s to voice your opinion?
Following are examples of speeches given by your fellow citizens who have provided the text to help you prepare your speech. Some of the names are left out on request of the writers.
- Limit your speech to about 3-5 minutes – about 1 or 2 pages.
- Bring extra copies of your speech to leave with the commissioners.
- Be as factual as possible and don’t rely on emotional appeals.
- Be respectful and professional. Don’t give an easy reason to dismiss your concerns.
- Use our fact sheets and other web resources.
- Relax! These commissioners work for you! And, they are nice people…
June 25, 2013
Snohomish County PUD District #1
2320 California Street
Everett, WA 98201
(Hand delivered to Commission Clerk at regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners and read aloud)
Attn: Toni Olsen, David Aldrich, Kathy Vaughn, Scott Spahr, Kim Moore, Dawn Presler and Steven Klein
Re: Sunset Falls Hydroelectric proposal
Thank you for this opportunity to speak before the commission. Because Snohomish Public Utilities District management now intercepts your email and the commissioners rarely attend public meetings on the Sunset Falls hydroelectric project, this is the only venue to express our concerns to you directly. I have a written copy of my comments to leave with each of you today as well as a copy for the commission clerk who I ask to enter into the minutes verbatim.
My name is Jim Platt. I am the current vice president of Canyon Falls Home Owners Association and I am here to represent the Board of Directors and its members.
CFHOA is a non-profit corporation formed in 2006 for the purpose of maintaining and administering the private roads serving the properties situated within the assessors plat of Mount Index River Sites division 2, blocks G on the low peninsula above Canyon Falls.
The reason I am here today is to speak about the proposed Sunset Falls Dam project, which would be built on the CFHOA community beach.
As a gesture of good faith and wanting to be reasonable neighbors as rate payers and property owners affected by the dam and hydroelectric project proposed at Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River, CFHOA granted escorted access to PUD for subsurface exploration in June of 2012 despite widespread community concerns about the impacts of the proposed project. CFHOA has previously met with PUD senior management and appeared before this commission to explain our concerns in detail. Because we feel we have been so egregiously misrepresented, the CFHOA access agreement that expired on November 11, 2012 will not be renewed for the following reasons:
1.) PUD disregarded CFHOA member’s response to their PUD survey on the Canyon Falls Bridge and widening of the natural constriction at the head of Canyon Falls. Because of the way the implied easement ruling works, Mount Index Riversite Community Club residents (MIRCC) would not have legal access over the bridge. Likewise, widening the constriction to reduce flooding only affects the peninsula residents except in 100-year floods. Regardless, PUD represented to FERC in its pre-application document that a majority of local residents supported the bridge and the widening when the opposite is true. PUD needs the bridge and widening of the constriction and the road to make the project viable and has in fact included these items in its estimates and preliminary plans. The community’s response did not support this and stated that message clearly on the comment cards from the open house, which PUD strategically omitted from their PAD and simply ignored the results of the community survey and inserted its own results.
2.) PUD senior management was aware of but failed to disclose that there is a substantial risk of environmental contamination from naturally occurring “adverse minerals” when the Department of the Interior made it clear to them in 1992. These are minerals like arsenic, lead and zinc likely to be found in the rock materials PUD plans to excavate and dump on the CFHOA access road.
3.) PUD has falsely represented to our CFHOA, Congress, FERC, Tribes, Agencies and the public that “prior environmental impact statements on the Sunset Falls project indicated no major environmental issues.” On Thursday June 20th, 2013 at 8:50 AM as a result of a Request for Public Information, PUD finally admitted that there are no such environmental impact or assessment statements.
4.) PUD senior management was aware of but has failed to disclose the risk of liquefaction and river re-channelization on the peninsula.
5.) PUD has maintained that it will not take property through eminent domain but PUD records indicate that the district intends to purchase 8 lots and the community beach for an estimated total of $94,000.00. Two of these lots and the community beach are at the tip of the peninsula in a spectacular natural setting that is used year round for recreation by the community, their guests, and those who rent the riverside cabins. The taking of these properties and the community’s beach for a combined total of $94,000 is nothing short of outrageous. In what world does any reasonable thinking person believe that these owners whose property will be “purchased” will find riverfront lots on a state scenic river for $10,444.00 on average to replace what PUD will take from them?
6.) PUD has completely disregarded its own policy: “We will also not even consider a site that has endangered species issues whether they be migratory or resident species (such as salmon or bull trout).” Source: Steve Klein, Snohomish PUD website, Snohomish PUD and Our Conservation & Renewable Resources by PUD General Manager Steve Klein. PUD is reshaping its values to suit its desires, which is destroying the PUD’s credibility.
7.) PUD has attempted to smear opponents of the project by stating that there are only a few of them and by labeling them as unreasonable and as “liars.” In fact, with a single exception, a consistent and reoccurring theme was voiced by opponents to the project at the first scoping meeting this past June 12th, 2013. These speakers included former mayors of Index and Monroe, engineers, industry professionals and business people from all over Snohomish County. More opponents wanted to speak but could not due to time constraints. Monroe’s former mayor Donetta Walser is currently the president of the League of Women Voters in Snohomish County whose organization is also strongly opposed to the project. Ms. Walser, at the request of 39th Legislative District, Senator Kirk Pearson, relayed the Senator’s strong opposition to the project.
The speakers were reasonable and well prepared to present numerous different concerns to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission representatives who were invited guests. If anything, the sole supporter of the project to put it politely, was probably not what PUD was hoping for. In addition to the speakers at the scoping meeting and those that have come before the commission, the entire 32nd Legislative District Democrats, 39th LD Representative Dan Christiansen, and more than 5000 people who have signed the petition urge the commission to reconsider this ill-conceived project.
8.) PUD has testified before congress that all of its projects have an adaptive recovery plan. If projects are found to cause environmental damage then PUD will simply remove them. This statement rings hollow with Sunset Falls. How could you possibly remove this project?
9.) PUD continues to include misleading images in its presentations to FERC, congress, agencies, tribes, media and the public. The misleading images shown in figures 6.7-8 and 6.7-9 of the PAD could easily be corrected using Photoshop but even after the urging of several people over long periods, the PUD refuses to correct them.
10.) Finally, I refer you to PUD’s Pre-Application Document one more time section 126.96.36.199, “The district has obtained approvals to use the roads for studies and project evaluation from MIRCC, CFHOA and the private property owners who own portions of the road.” This statement is not true. PUD obtained only limited permission to access Mt. Index Riversite roads from the MIR Board of Directors and not from more than a scant few private property owners. Snohomish PUD has only been allowed very limited access to Canyon Falls Home Owners Association and only with an escort. May I reaffirm one more time that PUD’s access has been revoked to CFHOA based on its bad faith actions and malicious behavior. May I also reiterate in the strongest language possible, Snohomish PUD has never, at any time had the support of the Canyon Falls Home Owners Association or of its members!
In conclusion, PUD has a monopoly on the sales of electricity in Snohomish County. Those of us who are PUD ratepayers vehemently opposed to the Sunset Falls project have no option to purchase their electricity elsewhere. For PUD to take our money while ignoring, disrespecting and misrepresenting our valid concerns and total opposition to this project is tantamount to taxation without representation.
Sunset Falls is already a very costly venture for PUD, not only in regards to money but to any positive public relations it may wish to preserve. The misleading and false testimony of PUD about the Sunset Falls project says volumes about PUD’s credibility and reputation.
The fact that the you, the commissioners, who are the only ones with the authority to monitor the power company’s misdeeds, misinformation and misrepresentations, do not respond to your own emails but have staff making over $200k and $400K respond for you, do not attend public meetings to interact and listen to the voters who elected you, and are only available twice a month for only a few minutes at a time during the day when most people work and therefore unable to attend, paints the picture that something is very wrong at Snohomish County PUD. Changes need to be made immediately.
Erik Olsen, President
James Platt, Vice President
Tom Washington, Secretary/Treasurer
Marcy Eller, Board Member
R.J. McPherson, Board Member
PUD Commission Meeting
May 28, 2013
Comments by Rebecca J. Wolfe, Ratepayer
I. The issue of “TRUST” — (revisited from my February 19 comments to the Commissioners) — Property owners along the Skykomish River in the vicinity of the proposed PUD “Sunset Falls Hydro Project” are very distrustful of the assurances given by the PUD that “we don’t want to condemn your properties” because the PUD’s actions speak more loudly than their carefully wordsmithed messages. The people of the Skykomish are not so naïve as to think they the PUD will not do that if they wish to do so. Relate this to today’s “Agenda Item 4B, below.”
Agenda Item 4B:
Consideration of a Resolution Authorizing the Condemnation of Real Property Interests Necessary for Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County to Construct, Operate and Maintain a High-Voltage Electric Line on Certain Real Property with a Street Address of 15522 76th Street NE, Lake Stevens, Washington, and Snohomish County Tax Parcel No. 00543800000300
II. The question of PUD’s official Policy on “Renewable Energy” (passed in 2007) — to seek locally produced energy. Now we know that the PUD has achieved their desired ability to sell renewable energy credits to non-local buyers who are able to receive RECs for our locally-produced energy. What is the agreement that allows the Snohomish PUD. PUD to bypass current Washington laws and to get RECs for California buyers?
From my February 19 comments, please remember these policies:
- Regarding the Climate Change Policy passed by the Commission in March 2007, the PUD is directed to: (Italicized responses are my comments related to Mr. Moore’s testimony.)
- a. Look for power in our own backyard . (But they are selling RECs to California. Our “local power” is helping CA meet their REC requirements.)
- b. Look only at cost-effective conservation. (The financial accounting on the highly touted, VERY low power dam at Young’s Creek shows that the project there is losing money.)
- c. Work toward a diverse mix of renewable energy. (We support this, but oppose NEW low-power hydro because it violates the letter and the spirit of the I-937 law. Selling RECs for our locally produced energy also violates the spirit of I-937.)
- d. Plan only projects with low environmental impacts. (The Sunset Falls Hydro project would have major environmental impacts — more Greenhouse Gas emissions from the many truck trips in and out of the construction area over 30+ months.)
- e. For local economics…(The Sunset Falls dam would cause local business up and down High 2 to lose business, jobs, and money for the local economy.)
- f. “non-greenhouse gas emissions” — (See “d” above.)
- g. “We work with the NGO’s.” (Yes, but the Snohomish PUD staff have misrepresented support from the NGO’s. Meeting with members of NGOs does not mean that the NGOs support the Sunset Falls dam proposal.)
- h. We find that our greatest energy demand is in the winter and our low-power hydro projects help fill the gap during those times. (Actually, the greatest demand times are summers and winters. The dam would be shut down in summer and would produce only a nominal amount of energy in the winter.)
- i. We are working with the Tulalips on an agreement whereby we would finance improvements to the current “Trap & Haul” facility on the S. Fork Skykomish. (This “behind closed doors” dealing is contrary to the PUD’s appearance of public service and transparency. A bribe to the tribe would include ratepayer-funded payments to finance this facility.)
- j. If done properly, low-power hydro could be (and should be) included in the I-937 credits. (WA State already depends upon hydro power for up to 80% of our energy needs. I-937 was passed by a vote of the citizens to stimulate and motivate NEW ways of producing energy for our region. We specifically excluded NEW low-power hydro in our bill that was passed by the legislature in 2006.)
See this note from PUD Commission meeting minutes, May 19, 2013.
[Young’s Creek Hydroelectric Project. Senior Manager Power Supply Anna Miles announced that the Young’s Creek Hydroelectric Project recently received certification by the California Energy Commission as being eligible for California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard. This certification is effective retroactively to July 2012 when the District filed for the certification.]
We are being as vigilant as working people with families, jobs, and other obligations can be — to pay attention to developments regarding our natural resources, the investments that our PUD makes, the level of transparency and honesty in PUD marketing schemes and planning, and so on. We wish that your meetings would be at times when typical citizens could attend.
We applaud your support of the research into storage options for wind and solar energy and encourage you to pursue these more fully, to increase your portfolio planning to much more than 0.2% “privately owned solar” sources by 2022, and stop considering MORE hydro than the 75% – 80% hydro that already powers the state of Washington.
Thank you for considering my comments today.
Rebecca J. Wolfe, Ph. D.
Testimony to Snohomish PUD Commissioners
February 19, 2013
Good afternoon, Commissioners. I am Rebecca Wolfe, Conservation Chair and Co-Chair of the Snohomish Group of the Sierra Club (WA State Chapter). I also serve as the Pacific Northwest Representative on the National Council of The Alliance for Democracy, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Our organizations support the Save the Sky River Coalition’s efforts to protect our State’s streams and especially the South Fork of the Skykomish River. We applaud much of the good work that our PUD is doing to increase conservation in the region. We urge much more in this area, as well as adherence to the I-937 law that was passed to stimulate our economy and new ideas and new ways to find energy for the future with environmentally friendly strategies and tactics.
My emphasis today relates to the process that is happening in the PUD’s efforts to obtain FERC approval for a new, low-power hydro project at Sunset Falls on the South Fork of the Skykomish River.
First of all, we are ratepayers and voters. All of you were elected to your positions in a democratic process. Therefore, we want to make sure that democratic processes are followed in your site approval efforts. If politicians begin to lose the trust of their constituents, then government suffers. We need and want to be able to trust the Snohomish PUD.
We have noticed that publicity that has been disseminated to the public is, in a number of cases, either misleading or inadequate to convey the scope, cost, and impacts of the Sunset Falls Dam project. One obvious example is your labeling the project, Sunset Fish and Energy Project. You have left out a key word: “Falls.” The image of a waterfall is one that appeals to people who value our natural resources and the beauty of nature. It seems as if this omission was done to “sell” the project to the public. Similarly, the reference to the dam as a “low-impact” dam is highly misleading. It’s obvious that the negative impacts will be many and the energy achieved will be quite low, as the Young’s Creek and Wood’s Creek projects demonstrate. One other example is the failure to include the majestic Mount Index in your photos of the proposed site at Sunset Falls. Again, leading the public to view the site as a typical site on a typical river is just disingenuous. There are actually many other examples of distorted or misleading publicity, but I will now focus on the testimony of Assistant Manager for Generation, Kim Moore, when he spoke at a workshop held by the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Telecommunications on January 24 of this year.
Re: Sno. PUD Assistant Gen. Mgr., Kim Moore’s testimony (Jan. 24, 2013)
Our perceptions of that testimony during a work session before the Senate Energy, Environment & telecommunication Committee:
- From Mr. Moore’s testimony we learn that the Snohomish PUD serves 320,000 power customers and 20,000 water customers in Sno. Co. and Camano Is.; that the PUD has a very aggressive conservation program at PUD but will still need more power for the future. Conservation us the major emphasis in the programs of the Sno. PUD.
- Regarding the Climate Change Policy passed by the Commission in March 2007, the PUD is directed to: (Italicized responses are my comments related to Mr. Moore’s testimony.)
- a. Look for power in our own backyard .
- b. Save the Sky recommends more solar & more wind – only grants at present; says that solar power doesn’t make sense in W. WA – absolutely not true.
- c. Look only at cost-effective conservation.
- The Young’s Creek project is not “cost-effective” since it costs 9 cents/KW to produce and can be sold for only 3 cents/KW. The current estimated cost for the Sunset Falls dam is $150. million to $170. million. Who wins and who loses? We are confident that ratepayers would agree that this project would be NOT be “cost-effective.”
- e. Work toward a diverse mix of renewable energy.
- We encourage more investment in storage batteries for wind power, much more in conservation projects, and truly NEW sources of energy.
- g. Plan only projects with low environmental impacts.
- Sunset Falls project would have very significant environmental impacts! The bypass tunnel would require a huge amount of blasting of granite rock that would definitely have negative impacts on wildlife and fish. The noise level would be unacceptable to local property owners in the area. There have been statements that there are no ESA listed endangered or threatened species that would be affected. We disagree with that claim and will soon make specifics available to you in a PowerPoint presentation that we will want to share with you.
- i. For local economics…
- After the construction of the Sunset Falls dam, there will be very few (if any) new jobs because the operation will be done remotely.
- k. “non-greenhouse gas emissions” —
- l. Actually, not true; again, our technical team will provide information to you in the near future to show that even “run-of-the-river” projects do produce methane gas.
- m. “We work with the NGO’s.”
- The Sierra Club’s Snohomish Group has about 2,000 members. We have not expressed our support for this project. In fact, we strongly oppose a new low-power dam on the Skykomish or any other State Scenic protected river. Mr. Moore stated that this river is not included in the Federal Wild & Scenic Rivers. However, it has been determined to be eligible and appropriate for inclusion in the Federal Program. We know that the Northwest Power & Conservation Council has also put protections on the Skykomish because of negative impacts on salmon and other fish, as well as well documented evidence of lower stream flows as the climate changes even more toward warmer temperatures in the future. The U. of WA’s “Climate Impact Group” has a considerable amount of information on the anticipated and projected climate crisis in the Pacific Northwest.
- o. We find that our greatest energy demand is in the winter and our low-power hydro projects help fill the gap during those times.
- The Save the Sky River Coalition has information that show low flows in the winter when the river is largely frozen above and even at the Sunset Falls area. So it is not correct that winter flows will be adequate to provide additional power during the peak demand months.
We are working with the Tulalips on an agreement whereby we would finance improvements to the current “Trap & Haul” facility on the S. Fork Skykomish.
- q. There are concerns related to the behind-closed-doors negotiations with the Tulalip Tribe regarding the PUD’s offers to invest quite heavily in improving the “trap & haul” operation of the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife. The Save the Sky Coalition recommends other funding mechanisms to fund improvements to the Tulalip’s “
- r. If done properly, low-power hydro could be (and should be) included in the I-937 credits.
- We absolutely reject that proposition and recommend that conservation credits be rolled over to provide some relief to PUDs that are having difficulty in meeting their I-937 requirements.
- In conclusion, I want to thank you again for the many positive activities and strategies that you’re taking to help protect our region against future water and/or energy deficits. We look forward to continuing our open communication with you and appreciate your serious consideration of the points that I have provided to you today. For much more information, please explore our website and watch the videos on the site. The URL is www.SaveTheSkyRiver.org. Please include these statements in the official record of this meeting. Thank you.
Feb 5, 2013 Canyon Falls Homeowner’s Association Presentation (pdf format):
Click to download: 02-05-13 Canyon Falls HOA Presentation to the Commissioners
January 17, 2013
To Snohomish County PUD Commissioners-
My name is Tom Washington and my wife and I own two lots and a cabin in section G in the Sunset Falls Hydroelectric project area. I recently discovered the commission was briefed on the project (January 8th, 2013) and I have since had a chance to look at the presentation. As members of the Canyon Falls Home Owners Association (CFHOA), we are parties of record for the proposed project.
There are several issues that have not been addressed by the proponents of this facility. Probably the best way to approach my concerns is to use the PowerPoint presentation page that was used in the briefing, “Low Impact Criteria” (Page 12/236 or Slide 9). Several criteria listed are tailored to promote the project and lack the objectivity required to truly assess impacts.
Outside Federal Wilderness areas.
Less than two miles to the north is the Big Sky Wilderness area. While it is true the site is not “in” a wilderness area, it is certainly germane that it is in close proximity.
Outside Federal Wild and Scenic River designation.
No mention is made of the fact that this stretch of river is currently included in the Washington State Scenic River system (RCW 79A.55.070) and has been nominated for federal status as well. Even without the federal status, the proposal seems to be in conflict with state law (RCW 79A.55.040) dictating that state and local governments pursue policies to conserve and enhance included river areas.
Prior Environmental Impact Statements indicated no major environmental issues
The word “major’ is subjective. I have seen impacts mentioned including increased flooding, visual degradation, noise, safety, and property damage / takings. I believe these all to be “major”.
No known issues that would preclude advancing project to evaluation stage
I feel a better choice of words would be “No acknowledged issues…” In addition to the issues above, I would include the following:
The modeling for inundation (Hec-Ras) during flood events is a static model that does not take into consideration the siltation that raises the impoundment area river bed. There is already a natural constriction of flow at the western bend (proposed dam location/impoundment area) that creates a differential in the water level during flood events. In effect, the upstream level rises higher due to restricted flow at the bend. When this happens, the narrow part of the peninsula effectively becomes an earthen dam between the north and south channels of the south fork. During the 2006 floods, the community roadway was washed out, my cabin (among others) was flooded and I lost well over 100 cubic yards of land when the upriver section breached the narrow part of the peninsula and ran through my properties to the lower level north channel. The proposed dam location would exacerbate this in the future by creating a situation where the flooding would not only become more frequent in this area; it would also become more intense and damaging. The proponents say the sedimentation will be taken care of when the dam is lowered and the river is flowing freely, and that flood events will be mitigated by lowering the dam. The sedimentation that will occur during normal dam operations will accumulate for weeks and months, and a lowering of the dam just prior to flood events will not be an adequate time period to allow the river bed to return to its normal depth when the floodwaters arrive. This will lead to more frequent and more severe flooding.
The presentation also included, almost as an afterthought, the placement of a bridge across the river just upriver from Canyon Falls. Prior to this presentation, I had never heard of any proposal to build a bridge to accommodate construction traffic for the dam. This proposed bridge, apart from not raising flooding concerns, would be at least as intrusive and impactful from an environmental standpoint as a hydroelectric dam. Visual impacts, noise impacts, and the placement of an additional bridge over a state-designated Scenic River are not acceptable.
The county has recently re-designated the area as a flood plain and has lowered the value of my property as a result of flooding occurrences. I believe a dam being constructed here will only continue the devaluation of my property’s worth as well as my family’s enjoyment of it. If you have any questions about my concerns, please give me a call.
Thank you for your consideration
Name not published at request of the speaker
Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. I am here as a concerned Snohomish County ratepayer. I am concerned that building a dam on the Skykomish River will be a bad decisionand cause increased rates for myself and other ratepayers. To me, an increase in rates from a public utility is little different from an increase in my taxes.
I have been reading a book called Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in economics for the discoveries described in the book. It has been a best-seller since its publication a year ago, and is particularly popular with those who make financial decisions. A major theme of the book is how people, including experts, wind up making bad decisions. The Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) and Enron debacles have shown that very bad decisions about energy have been made by people operating with the best of intentions. One factor that was certainly operative in these bad decisions was over-reliance on the advice of experts who were already advocates for a specific solution. Are the experts who advise you also already advocates for a solution? I am concerned they may be.
While you Commissioners have not yet made a decision on the dam, your organization seems to be operating as if they have already committed to it. Why else would news reporters have been given estimates of power production well in excess of those in the FERC application? Why else would your own web site for the project studiously avoid using the word “dam”? Why would SnoPUD lobbyists have already begun efforts to repeal protections currently afforded the Skykomish River or to alter the meaning of I-937, which specifically excludes new dams?
In his book, Dr. Kahneman attributes many bad decisions to the “planning fallacy,” which leads people to underestimate costs and overestimate benefits when undertaking risky projects. He notes a study of many public transportation projects, where cost overruns averaged 50% and were sometimes several hundred percent. Will this project’s $170 million price tag for the dam balloon to $250 million or more? Will power generation be overestimated, as was ridership for the transportation projects?
Another reason for bad decisions is a failure to look at the baseline rates of success for similar undertakings. A dam at Sunset Falls has been studied four times previously and rejected each time, most recently for lack of cost effectiveness. Would you buy a business where the previous four owners had failed?
Yet another reason for bad decisions is failure to adequately consider alternatives. Ever since the WPPSS default, subsidizing energy conservation has been the most successful approach to addressing electric power needs. There are also wind turbines, solar power (including subsidized homeowner solar power which, like conservation, reduces rate payer costs), or improved energy transmission and delivery (smart grids). Who is providing you with objective comparisons of the costs and benefits of these alternatives?
Based on the FERC estimates, the dam will cost over $170 million for around 14 average megawatts, or over $10 million per megawatt. In contrast, the Bonneville Power Authority expects to improve the efficiency of current generation facilities at Grand Coulee to produce an additional 240 megawatts, with a price tag of $300 million or so, or well under $1.5 million per megawatt. Is this dam the best use of ratepayer dollars? Grand Coulee is but one example of existing dams in Washington that have outlived their design lifetime, where rehabilitation and upgrade would likely offer a better return on investment.
Another cause of bad decisions is failure to consider worst-case scenarios. WPPSS and Enron both turned out to be worst-case scenarios and the ratepayers were left holding the bag. Who will provide you with an honest assessment of possible worst-case scenarios for a dam at Sunset Falls? For example, the dam and intake are at the end of a peninsula that is essentially an extended rock bar. If the blasting and/or increased subterranean water pressure destabilizes this peninsula, and then a flood cuts through it, the river could completely bypass the dam and the intake.
I have mentioned WPPS and Enron as examples of bad decisions that your predecessor Commissioners participated in. In both these instances, many other power commissions made similar bad decisions. This shows how easy it is to make bad decisions when relying on experts who are also advocates or have outside agendas. In the case of the final decision on a dam at Sunset Falls, you Commissioners will take full credit or blame for the outcome. The legacy of any bad decision will rest on your shoulders alone, and the reminder will likely be there for 100 years or more.
You know that you currently have excellent rating from your customers. You also know that most Washingtonians do not want more dams built, especially on the last un-dammed major river in Western Washington, one that has been recommended for protection from hydropower development by the state legislature and by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, as well as by many environmental groups.
I am a teacher and it occurs to me that I am asking you to do a little homework. I encourage you to read Thinking Fast and Slow, particularly Section 3, entitled “Overconfidence.” It may help you better to understand how people with both expertise and good intentions can wind up making decisions that turn out badly. I hope this book will help you to make the right decisions.
As a teacher, I also find it hard to finish without asking if you have any questions for me.
Thank you for your attention.
PUD RATE PAYER: Patrick Corcorran
TOPIC: Hydroelectric Dam Proposal/ S. Fork of Skykomish River
Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today in regard to the proposed hydroelectric dam on the South Fork of the Skykomish River.I understand that you have heard from others on this subject so I have chosen to refrain from going into significant detail on the environmental harm this proposition would cause.
I would like to start by telling you a quick story: I have spent the majority of my life here in the northwest and grew up in a small town called Blaine, WA located on the Canadian border.
When I was 10 years old my dad took me on a ski trip to Stevens Pass. This was quite a treat for me because the only mountain I had been to before was Mt. Baker. Unfortunately, the day turned out to be very windy and wet which made the visibility horrible. Naturally as a young kid in this type of situation all I really wanted to do was go home.
On the ride back I remember questioning my dad as to why he would decide to move from his childhood home of Walnut Creek, CA to the wet, cold and rainy state of Washington. After a long pause my dad answered with “California could never satisfy his need for the outdoors.” I responded “are you serious dad, what about the beaches, sunshine and palm trees?” He laughed and said, “I will make you a bet. As mad as you are right now I can take you to a place 20 minutes from here that will put a larger smile on your face than any area in California ever did for me.” I responded with frustration: “sure dad….”
Twenty minutes later we pulled off HWY 2 onto this little dirt road, which I now know as Mt. Index Road and I thought to myself, oh great another cold wet excursion… After driving up the winding road about 2 miles I saw it: Sunset Falls. I had seen pictures and even a couple other waterfalls in my short life but nothing quite like this. The South Fork is an area that continues to remind me why I stay in Washington. That was a great day with my dad and the thought of not being able to experience this with my future kids would be very unfortunate.
I share this story to outline the emotional factor that initially caused me to oppose the idea of a dam on the Skykomish. However, I realize there are always two sides to a story and assumed there must be a very good reason why this would be considered.
Furthermore, I am not one that would usually engage in environmental discussions, yet after researching this issue I came to the conclusion it’s worth taking a stand on. It simply does not make any sense to me from an environmental or business standpoint. The negative impact this dam would cause far outweighs the small amount of energy it would generate and the huge amount of money it will cost ratepayers…?
I understand the thought process of making business decisions; I have studied business, ran two successful small businesses of my own, and now work for one of the largest investment bank/ brokerages in the world.
I consider this a fairly simple business decision not only for the State of WA but also PUD’s reputation: Pursuing the development of a Dam in an area that has been researched on 4 separate occasions over the last 30 years and failed to move forward on any of them, as a result of low economic return and high environmental harm, is a bad business decision.
Disregarding the people of Washington like myself who are not only your customers but have clearly stated there opposition by approving mandate I-937 which states that new dams on fresh water violates Washington’s renewable energy standards is a bad business decision.
Ignoring the fact that even such an early stage proposal has already managed to place the South Fork of the Skykomish among the top 10 most endangered rivers by the American Rivers Organization due to environmental and recreational harm is a bad business decision.
Proposing a Dam on a River that has been designated by the National Fisheries Service as critical habitat for threatened Puget Sound Chinook Salmon (King Salmon) and Bull Trout is a bad business decision.
I will spare us the time of going through more details on issues associated with this proposal. Such as the obvious recreational harm and eye sore this dam would cause.
I’ll leave you with my final thoughts: I have yet to speak with any friends, neighbors, co-workers or family members that have felt this proposal is even remotely a good idea. In fact many of them were surprised or outraged that PUD would even consider such an endeavor.
If the proposed dam at sunset falls moves forward it will surely be a decision that we will look back on as a huge mistake. I base this statement on research from an economic, environmental, and above all, ethical perspective. I urge you to abandon this proposal and focus your efforts and due diligence on other alternatives available. Thank you again for your time and please know I feel this is a standalone issue that will not affect PUD’s reputation if dropped sooner rather than later.
1. You have mentioned on several occasions that if enough people oppose this dam PUD will not move forward. With minimal effort we have already gathered thousands of signatures. How many will we need to show you in order to halt this endeavor?
DATE: June 26, 2012
TO: PUD Commissioners Vaughn, Olson, & Aldrich
Hello and thank you, Commissioners, for this opportunity to offer my views on the proposed Skykomish River hydro project.
My name is Chris Harmon and I have lived with my husband Rex for more than 20 years on a high bank above the Skykomish, about 400 yards downstream from the proposed dam site, which is visible from our deck, and just upstream from Canyon Falls.
We love the lifestyle of our simple mountain cabin, surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of God’s creation.
I am, of course, opposed to the building of this dam because it would forever damage our cherished way of life by reducing or, who knows, maybe even periodically eliminating the water flowing by our house.
It should be easy for everyone to understand that there are many quality of life reasons why I would not like to see a dam on our river.
But I wonder if anyone really understands how difficult it would be to actually build a dam in this place. I am not an engineer, but I have experienced 20 years of flooding on the Skykomish River.
As just one example, let me tell you what it’s like when it floods.
- Our house sits 40 feet above the river but I have seen the river water rise until it completely surrounds our home! And it fills up the valley so fast you can actually see the water rising on the bank. In fact my husband and I place markers on our bank to help us gage the flood situation, should we stay or should we leave?
- Our house also sits next to a railroad trestle, and during floods huge trees fill the river and when they crash into the railroad bridge they splinter into match sticks!
- I have even seen an entire house float by and smash into the bridge!
It truly is a shock and awe experience!
I tell people all the time what the flood waters are like but they typically think I am exaggerating, even when I show them pictures. You can’t really believe how powerful the floodwaters are until you see it firsthand.
I recently heard your manager, Steve Klein, say on KPLU that “we’re not building Grand Coulee Dam,” but at flood stage the Skykomish River has more water flowing than the Columbia River at Grand Coulee during some times of the year, and through a much narrower channel.
Having experienced the raging fury of Skykomish floodwaters first hand – on many occasions over many years – it’s hard for me to imagine that a little rubber inflatable dam could stand up to it. Maybe that’s the concept, but when the results of your feasibility studies come in no doubt the actual proposed plan could look a lot more like Grand Coulee than you have been led to believe, and with a far greater price tag.
I can also tell you that we are seeing less water in the river every year, I guess because global warming has caused the feeder glaciers up in the mountains to melt away. I’m told there is no reason to believe that the process will reverse itself anytime soon, so there will be less and less water to share moving forward.
As commissioners, these things should be of great concern to you.
Finally, it looks like this dam will only make enough electricity to provide 40 Watts of electrical power for the average household served by PUD. Really? Given the estimated $200M cost, volatile water flow, unavoidable environmental damage and quality of life compromise to local residents, is this really something PUD ratepayers want to invest in? I don’t think so!
And it really bothers me that this project will NOT, repeat will NOT even help satisfy I-937, the local energy production mandate that I voted for in 2006. In my opinion $200M of ratepayer money would be better and more appropriately spent on I-937 qualifying renewable energy projects like geothermal, solar, wind and tidal energy generating plants.
In closing, I am asking you to please respect the state designated status of the Skykomish River as a wild and scenic river. I also invite each of you to come out and do a site visit, sit on my deck, have a cup of coffee and experience the river for yourself. I’ll even show you my flood pictures. You have a standing invitation to be my guests.
CFHOA resident since 1992
January 10, 2012
Thank you for the chance to speak for myself and for the many generations of past and future family members, for my neighbors, and the rest of us who love the Skykomish River.
As a third generation owner of a home on the Skykomish River, I have a unique perspective on the proposed power plant and weir. I appreciate the opportunity to share it with you.
My grandfather built my home on the Skykomish River in 1964, the year I was born. From my infancy, my family would spend weekends, weeks and summers there with him there. We had 2 sets of triple-decker bunk beds, so our cousins and friends could join us.
This was the place for Thanksgivings, birthdays, father’s day and family reunions. The very best memories four generations so far have been created there. We’d skip rocks, fish, and raft. This is where my brother taught me to do flips off the sand dunes (back then the river bank was mostly sand). It was and still is the environment where wholesome American values are created and nurtured.
The South Fork of the Skykomish is where my family would bring clients and out-of-town guests to impress them. From the picturesque vista of the Sky with Mount Index looming behind to Canyon Falls and Sunset Falls, this is the part of Washington to be proud of. It rivals the Swiss Alps. And for years later, the guests would routinely recall the stunning beauty of the Sky.
When my grandfather was 88 and he could no longer drive, my father drove him to the Skykomish. It’s where we celebrated my grandfather’s 101st birthday. Everyone acknowledged it was the Skykomish River that kept him young, active and alive for so long. When he wasn’t with family, my grandfather would visit with the neighbors down the road. You see, it was a close-knit community 47 years ago, just as it is today.
Upon my grandfather’s death, the home was given to my father, a WWII veteran. When my father passed the cabin went to his widow, who continued the tradition of our family reunions including her family, as well.
In 2007, I purchased the property from my step-mom during the height of the market because the cabin and the Skykomish is my heritage, my history – it’s actually the history of all of us born in Washington. It’s where I taught my daughter’s to respect nature, where my nieces and nephews skip rocks, inner tube and kayak, and learn to appreciate life beyond electronics. It’s the most important place in the world to a great many of us.
During my 47 years on the Skykomish I’ve witnessed first-hand the dramatic changes in the river. In fact, I hired a geotechnical engineer to evaluate the riverbank before I bought the home. He concluded that the river would eventually by-pass the end of the peninsula, based on the composition of the bank and its past behavior. This natural change of course would probably take many decades, but the bank has shifted substantially over the past 20-30 years and will continue to do so.
Snohomish County PUD is proposing to put the weir and the water intake at the end of the peninsula. It is clear quality research has not been done. A weir would speed that process up by decades, and the river would eventually bypass the proposed intake and dam all together. The river already jumps across the peninsula in flood waters.
The spot where the proposed weir and intake are proposed is familiarly called “the eddy.” It’s where swimmers, rafters and inner tubers float around and around in the circling water. Those rafters, tuners and swimmers would be killed if they were to go over the weir, which is invisible from a raft on the river.
How can you propose a new dam at the time taxpayers are spending $325 million to remove two Washington dams because of the negative impact to the environment? Does the estimated $150 million include the cost to remove the dam and the power plant in the future?
To PUD, this project is a job. I left my job to protest this project because to me, my family, my neighbors, my community, and thousands of Washington residents, this project is more than any job, mine or yours. This area is our homes, our heritage, and our history. It needs to be preserved.
What I find ironic about this project is that my grandfather’s original cabin was in a different spot on the river, closer to “the lagoon.” Burlington Northern approached him in the early 60’s and was asked to relocate to make way for the tracks. He moved to the spot where my cabin is now. As it turned out, Burlington Northern miscalculated the flow of the river, just as PUD has. They never put the tracks there. Instead, they demolished his cabin and the land sits empty to this day. That’s exactly what will happen again if PUD is allowed to proceed. Can’t we please learn from past mistakes?
Thank you for your attention,
FROM: Lynne Kelly April 17,2012
TO: Commissioners Vaughn, Olson, & Aldrich
Steve Klein, General Manager
Commissioners and Mr. Klein, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the current hydropower proposal on the Skykomish River. I am going to take advantage of the fact that you have heard from others on this subject and I will try to be brief and refrain from rehashing the fish facts and geological history with which you are all too familiar.
My name is Lynne Kelly and since graduating from college 28 years ago in 1984, I have lived in a small cabin about a quarter mile from Sunset Falls. It is my only home and I live there year-round. Over the years I have both contributed to and been a grateful recipient of your Project Pride program as well as your weatherization program. I am on a first name basis with some of your stellar employees such as Greg Milne and Dawn Presler and Gaye Brown. With a couple of exceptions, I have been very impressed with how quickly your employees restore power following one of Mother Nature’s tantrums. In other words, I am a PUD fan.
I admire and respect your simple mission statement: “We will make a difference in our customers’ lives by safely providing quality products and services in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner.” How can you not love a multi-million dollar publicly-owned utility that can put it all into one sentence!?
There is no doubt you have concern for personal safety and that you provide excellent service. However! The proposed dam above Sunset Falls is neither cost-effective nor environmentally sound. While I agree with Mr. Moore that many small projects aiming for 3% – 8% of our county’s requirements will add up to make a difference, I question whether PUD project managers are over-reaching with Sunset Falls, perhaps due to recent successes at Youngs Creek and Woods Creek and the promise of funding. Experts agree that once the math is done, at best this dam will result in 1% or less of the county’s power needs.
Within a few short weeks, opponents to this proposal include more than five major groups and they can be found on the website www.savetheskyriver.org. These groups such as The Sierra Club, The Mountaineers and the North Cascades Conservation Council have gained respect and credibility by being discerning with their causes. In addition to listening to me, I hope you will give these groups and their experts the credence they deserve.
Mr. Klein, you state on your webpage, in regard to new dams: “We will also not even consider a site that has endangered species issues, whether they be migratory or resident species (such as salmon or bull trout).” If continued public trust is a priority, how can you consider locating a dam above Canyon Falls, which is indisputably a stretch of river that is home to bull trout and salmon?
As a Registered Nurse, my goal for the past 28 years has been to treat every patient as if they were a member of my family. I believe if you or someone important to you had their home in the path of this proposed dam, you would bring an end to this proposal. There is something very un-American about taking somebody’s home, even for the sake of the greater good. The bottom line you have to ask is: is it worth it? How many megawatts would make it worth taking a family’s vacation cabin built by their grandparents? How many megawatts would make it acceptable to take a person’s only residence? I do not have the answer to that question, but I do know that less than 1% of the county’s power is not enough to justify it. In this day of instant social media, could the PUD survive the hailstorm that would ensue after utilizing eminent domain to seize private property? The homeowners affected have some compelling stories that would melt even the coldest industrialist’s heart… cabins passed down to them from their grandparents, stunning family homes where births and marriages and deaths have taken place.
When you step inside your front door after work today, I hope you will stand quietly for a moment and consider the sensations that come with the thought of losing your home.
Yes, developing more energy will impact the environment in some way and will inevitably have opposition from some individual or group. Again, to quote Steve Klein: “When you are in a business that must build and maintain things to provide a necessary public service, the best you can do is listen to everyone, take all constructive input seriously and ultimately make balanced decisions based on sound moral and ethical principles that respect both the people and the environment.” There is nothing moral or ethical about acquiring property through eminent domain for such a small amount of energy.
There are reasons proposals at this site have failed for the last hundred years. My reason for being here today is to ask that you be true to your mission and put an end to this proposal.
Thank you again for allowing me a voice today.
Have you been to Sunset Falls? (They all answered “no”.) Please come and visit the area, if you have not already done so. Enclosed is a note to put on your dashboard so you can park without concern at the base of Sunset Falls.
Has PUD ever acquired private property via eminent domain? Was it from an unwilling property owner? (They answered they were not sure and that they would get back to me after researching it.)
Several months ago at a public meeting, I asked for a “Photo-shopped” or artist rendition of what the plant and the dam and the increased transmission lines will look like. Has that become available? (They answered that 2 bids for contractors to do this job was next on the agenda that very day.)
Lora Cox – [Talking Points for Board of Commissioner’s Meeting]
Gauging the Flow of the River
The Snohomish County Public Utilities District (SnoPUD) application for a preliminary permit assumes an average flow atSunsetFallsof 2500 cubic feet/second (cfs), based on the Gold Bar station gauge that is located miles downstream of both the N. and S. Forks of the river. The flow data and predicted values are located at this URL:
There is no gauge atSunsetFalls, which is on the S. Fork. The best guess is that the N. Fork typically contributes about 1/3 of the total flow at the Gold Bar gauge. The flow at that gauge should be 3750 in order for the presumed actual flow atSunsetFallsto be 2500 cfs. Average flow is not typical flow. The daily flow will exceed the lower median flow only half the time.
Map Inaccuracies; Properties in Jeopardy
Maps 3 and 4 on the application are the same map with different titles. Map 3 is Project Layout and Map 4 is Project Boundary. If Map 4 is the Project Boundary, does SnoPUD intend to acquire most of the community? The maps also inaccurately reflect where the real roads are; the roads were presumably changed from the plat layout because of past major flood events.
In both community meetings Mr. Moore, SnoPUD Project Engineer, responded to questions of eminent domain by stating that SnoPUD does not “intend” to condemn any properties. According to the maps, there are at least three property owners whose properties are in total jeopardy. These people cherish their homes, live in the area full-time, and/or have cabins that have remained in their families for generations. Acquiring their properties is different from buying someone off who has a stretch of woods in the boonies with a river running through it. When condemning property, what is the threshold before the human impact would be considered “high”?
The Road Situation
The permit acknowledges our roads are private. For the community property owners that means we must pay to maintain the roads; the county does not touch the roads. SnoPUD has implied easement to provide routine electrical service to its customers but does not currently have permission to use the roads for any other purpose. It appears SnoPUD has already trespassed to do their initial assessment. These roads are narrow, sometimes skirting alongside a sliding hill, and not built to any recognized minimal standard. During a flood event, the road is impassable, usually underwater in two separate places, between the highway and location of the proposed dam. No vehicles can safely proceed until Mother Nature allows the water to recede, i.e., until it stops raining. If SnoPUD would need guaranteed 24/7 access to the facility, they could not have it during a flood event, given the current location and condition of the roads.
Nowhere does the application state what will be the expected height of the “weir”. This structure is effectively a low head dam, which is also known as a “drowning machine”. A “weir” higher than a few feet is life-threatening. It looks innocuous with water peacefully cascading over a smooth river-wide bump. In contrast, the dangers ofCanyonFallsandSunsetFallsare immediately apparent when looking at them from any angle.
Incredibly, SnoPUD wants to erect a “drowning machine” in the middle of a recreational community. People flock to the river in the summer bringing children, grandchildren, visitors. SnoPUD could counter the low head dam argument by saying they would fence off the area. When the floods that come along a couple times each year, a fence would be wiped out, and portions of it would be sent downstream, creating more hazards. Another way to mitigate this danger is to have the “weir” monitored 24/7 (especially in the summer when the water is lower), with the ability to lower it instantly to decrease potential for loss of life. The last way to mitigate this danger is for SnoPUD to take all surrounding property by eminent domain and fence it off. This comes back to Map 4, Project Boundary.
If this project goes to fruition and there is even one loss of life in the “weir”, then FERC has at least a moral culpability, if not a legal one. After each tragedy, FERC should stipulate that Mr. Moore personally meet with, and console, all family members of people who have drowned in the “weir”.
In the public meetings, Mr. Moore stated that, after the dam was built, SnoPUD could install some type of recreation area for the public at intake area. In such close proximity to a dangerous low head dam? And over-ride the private aspect of this community, creating more wear and tear on the roads that the property owners pay to have maintained? There’s already an existing community beach near the area that people enjoy, but it would be drowned in the “impoundment”.
Fish need water. In the application, SnoPUD uses an average flow at the Gold Bar station; problems with calculating that flow are discussed above. If you, FERC, approve this application, please don’t allow SnoPUD to lower the minimal flow to anything less than what it is now, remembering the flow at the gauge is estimated as 2/3 of what it is atSunsetFalls. Our flood events skew average flow data. It would seem prudent to insist that SnoPUD use the median as well as the mean (average) flow of the river when doing preliminary research. Remember that average flow is not typical flow; the daily flow will exceed the lower median flow only half the time.
Being anywhere near the river during a flood event is a somber experience. One can see many huge and heavy objects careening down river including huge trees, refrigerators, propane tanks, tow-behind trailers. It’s going to be one darn good engineering job to build an intake that will withstand those constant assaults in flood events. Anything in the proposed structure that gets dislodged will become a hazard downstream.
TO: PUD Commissioners Vaughn, Olson, & Aldrich
and Steve Klein, General Manager
Thank you Commissioners for the opportunity to offer my input today about the hydropower
proposal on the Skykomish River.
My name is Heidi Heimarck, and in 2000 my husband and I purchased a cabin in “G Section” on
the south fork of the Skykomish River. As you may know, Skykomish means “Up River People” in
Chinook jargon. We decided to name our cabin (as people are wont to do) and started exploring
Chinook jargon. We chose “Saghalie deh Cho”. Saghalie means “high holy”; a saghalie was a
person who taught that a place called ‘heaven’ exists. Deh Cho is “crazy person” but literally meant
much moving water – because if you fall into fast moving water you are lost to us – or off the face of
the earth. So, to us “Saghalie deh Cho” means “you have fallen off the face of the world as you
know it and into paradise”. And that is what our little piece of land still means to us. I’m afraid that
if traffic and construction and damming occurs, we will have to change the name.
At the time my husband and I bought the cabin, we were living in Seattle, and, as you might recall,
in the late 90’s, the real estate market was skyrocketing. We are both artists and writers, so we
determined that although we could not afford to purchase a home in the city, or any city, we might
be able to afford a cabin somewhere – to which we could escape and write. We looked for almost a
year, and then found our dream escape; near water, mountain views, and surrounded by nature.
This cabin that we bought 12 years ago is our dream home, even though we can’t afford to live there
full-time. We’ve had some influential theater artists stay at our cabin, often to write plays. Artists
whose names you might not recognize but who do have an impact on contemporary theater,
regionally and throughout the nation – Todd Jefferson Moore, Ed Caldwell, Aimee Bruneau, Lauren
Weedman, Keri Healey, Michael Neff, Mara Lathrop and of course my husband and myself, to
name a few.
In 2010, we moved from Seattle to Everett to manage Artspace Everett Lofts over on Hoyt.
Artspace Everett Lofts was built LEED Silver-certified, and I’m impressed at how inexpensive our
tenants’ bills are. I hope that all new construction can be held up to high energy-efficient standards,
and I applaud PUD’s many programs and incentives that encourage energy efficient appliances and
upgrades. Maybe in time, everyone will be using less energy instead of PUD providing more
After the flood a few years ago, my husband and I hired a contractor and dutifully got each permit,
each inspection, and obeyed every single law. We were not allowed to increase the footprint of our cabin because of its proximity to the river, so we re-built on the same footprint. We got hot water on demand (rather than a hot water tank) because it would lessen our impact. We have never cut down trees near the river that have a circumference larger than 6″.
What was the meaning of these laws, permits, and requirements if now, they can be so readily tossed aside? I’m not clear why we and other residents made such efforts to be mindful of our location and our impact on wildlife, when the construction of the dam and the dam itself will so negatively impact the pristine nature of the area.
Commissioners. Despite any assurance that this dam will have little or no environmental impact,
we cannot be naive enough to believe that changing a wild river’s flow will have no impact on fish
migration and survival.
I’m here to ask all of us, as responsible citizens, to make a commitment to
the Wild and Scenic River legislation signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968.
Twenty years later, while Oregon protected all or parts of 44 rivers with the Wild and Scenic Rivers
bill, Washington only protected a few rivers, instead choosing to make its environmental cause
celebre the wilderness habitats of the northern spotted owl. Those efforts were successful at
controlling clear-cutting and curbing the destruction of old growth habitat, but now it’s time for
Washingtonians to protect the rivers as well.
It’s our responsibility. Water sustains life itself, and impacts the survival of every creature on the way up the food chain. Please seek other means for increasing sustainable energy sources. Please take into full account the fact that some decisions really can’t be reversed.
Thank you –
Bill Gould –
MS. VAUGN, MS. OLSON, MR, ALDRICH, MR. KLEIN, MR. MOORE,
THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME TO ADDRESS THE COMMISSION. I WILL BE BRIEF. MY NAME IS BILL GOULD, AND I AM A MEDICAL DOCTOR WHO HAS PRACTICED LOCALLY SINCE 1981, MANY OF THOSE PRIVILEGED YEARS AT THE EVERETT CLINIC. I ADDRESS THE COMMISSION TODAY REGARDING THE PROPOSED HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT ON THE SKYKOMISH RIVER AT SUNSET FALLS, HOPING TO PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE THAT THE PROPOSAL IS ECONOMICALLY AND ETHICALLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
IN THE LATE 60S I SERVED AS A COMBAT OFFICER IN VIET NAM. SADLY I FOUND MYSELF THE UNWILLING GUEST OF THE VIET CONG COMMUNIST FORCES. I HAD MUCH TIME TO THINK. I VOWED THAT IF I EVER TASTED FREEDOM AGAIN, I WOULD MAKE SOMETHING OF MY LIFE. I HOPE I HAVE. TO PROMOTE PEACE IN THE WORLD, I LEFT MY BEAUTIFUL FAMILY FOR SIX MONTHS TO VOLUNTEER MY MEDICAL SKILLS IN THE SUDAN, IN THE FAMINE IN DARFUR PROVINCE, AND THEN TAUGHT MYSELF THE VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE AND HAVE BEEN BACK TO VIET NAM MANY TIMES AS A VOLUNTEER IN THEIR UNDER SERVED AREAS.
I THOUGHT THAT WITH TIME, THE TRAUMA OF THE WAR MIGHT RESOLVE, BUT IT DID NOT, AND IN 1987, AS A LAST GASP, I MOVED TO MOUNT INDEX RIVERSITES, TO A TINY CABIN HOPING THE EXQUISITE SETTING WOULD HEAL THE WOUNDS. I DID NOT MIND DRIVING INTO EVERETT EVERY DAY TO DO THE WORK I SO LOVE.
I RESPECTFULLY SUBMIT IT IS OUR CHARGE TO DISPLAY THE COURAGE TO PREVENT THE DESECRATION OF ONE OF THE FEW UNSULLIED GEMS IN OUR MAGNIFICENT STATE.
THE FRAGILE WILDLIFE MUST NOT BE SUBJECTED TO THE YEARS OF STRESS WHILE 11,000 CUBIC YARDS OF GRANITE ARE CARTED OUT OF THE SITE. THE FISH MUST NOT BE IMPERILED BY 300 DYNAMITE EXPLOSIONS JUST 65 FEET FROM THEIR SPAWNING SITES, AND THE RIVER AND FLORA AND OUR HOMES NOT COATED WITH 9,000 GALLONS OF OILY DIESEL RESIDUE FROM THE 3,500 SORTIES OF DUMP TRUCKS THAT JUST THE FIRST PHASE OF THE PROJECT DEMANDS. AND ALL OF IT JUST SO THAT THE AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD SERVED BY PUD MAY BE SUPPLIED WITH LESS THAN 40 WATTS OF ELECTRICAL POWER.
AND THESE FIGURES ARE JUST TO CUT THE TUNNEL, AND ARE LESS THAN ONE-HALF OF THE ACTUAL NUMBER, AS I WILL NOT BE ACCUSED OF HAVING INFLATED THE IMPACT OF A DECISION TO CONSTRUCT THIS DAM.
WHILE I UNDERSTAND, RESPECT, AND SUPPORT YOUR MANDATE TO FIND ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF ENERGY, I HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR ALMOST 70 YEARS AND KNOW, WITHOUT QUESTION, THAT THE COST AND ENGINEERING ESTIMATES PROFFERED TO THIS BOARD ARE FATUOUS. THEY ARE BEST SCENARIO DATA, AND WE ARE ALL WELL AWARE THAT IS SIMPLY NOT THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS. THERE WILL BE SUBSTANTIAL COST OVERRUNS, AND THE PROMISED ENERGY OUTPUT WILL NEVER BE AS ADVERTIZED.
YOU FOLKS HAVE MUCH RESPONSIBILITY. I DID AS WELL FOR THE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THOUSAND LIVES I TOUCHED AS A PHYSICIAN. FRIENDS, WE ARE NOT PRIVY TO WHAT BECOMES OF US IN THE AFTER LIFE, BUT I CAN ASSURE YOU FROM 5 DECADES OF SAD EXPERIENCE WATCHING SOLDIERS AND PATIENTS SUFFER THROUGH THEIR LAST DAYS, A CERTAIN CLARITY EMERGES AT THE END. I THINK ABOUT THE BLUNDERS I HAVE COMMITTED, AND PRAY THEY DO NOT POISON THE CLOSE OF MY LIFE. I HOPE MY MISTAKES WERE NEVER UNDERPINNED BY A LACK OF COURAGE TO STAND UP TO HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATORS AND INSURANCE COMPANIES DRIVEN BY GREED; THAT I NEVER ABANDONED THE WELFARE OF A SINGLE PATIENT TO GENERATE INCOME FOR ME PERSONALLY OR FOR MY OVERSEERS.
YOU, TOO, WILL LIE THERE SOME DAY, HOPEFULLY NOT FOR EIGHT OR NINE DECADES, BUT YOU WILL BE THERE, ALONE WITH YOUR THOUGHTS, AND IF YOU ARE LUCKY, HOLDING THE HAND OF YOUR SPOUSE OR PRECIOUS CHILD. DO NOT LET THAT BE THE TIME YOU FACE THE IMPLICATIONS OF A DECISION TO HARM RATHER THAN PRESERVE BOTH LIFE AND THE SACROSANCT. AND FOR SUCH MEAGRE ENDS – 40 WATTS. HAVE THE COURAGE NOW TO EXAMINE THE TRUTH, AND IGNORE THE SPIN OF THOSE WITH LESS THAN ENLIGHTENED MOTIVES.
Lora Cox – for Anonymous Student
May 22, 2012
Good Afternoon Commissioners: President Vaughn, Vice President Olson, Secretary Aldrich.
My name is Lora Cox. I have a piece of property downstream from the proposed turbine site at Sunset Falls.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you again. My comments today center around students. The timing of what I’m going to read to you is coincidental, really it is, with the student contest winners show-cased just a few minutes ago. What students are able to do these days with both their imaginations and such vastly improved technology is astounding. I frequently envy their learning environments.
I was recently in Hawaii and saw on the local news that a teacher gave an assignment to her class to develop alternative energy solutions. There is a very high emphasis on energy, and its conservation, in Hawaii.
Today I am going to read a short essay. The author is 11 years old. He does not live in the SnoPUD rate payer area. However, his thoughts have no geographic boundaries. Listen to his essay with caring hearts and not critical fact-dissecting minds. The meaning will shine through even in the presence of debatable math. He wrote the introduction below when he consented to let me read his essay to you. I’ll first read the introduction and then I’ll read the essay exactly as he submitted to his teacher.
Again, Commissioners thank you for your time and attention.
My name is ————-. I am a 5th grader at Clearwater Middle School in Waconia, Minnesota.
I love to play football and baseball. My favorite class is physical education.
I have only been fishing twice, but I hope to fish a lot this summer.
For one of my science assignments, I chose to read a news article about an event or decision where the natural environment plays a crucial role. I then needed to write a summary featuring important details and my feelings on the topic. That is why I wrote a summary of what I learned at savesunsetfalls.com.
Thank you for your interest.
My teacher said that one person can not really make a difference. I sure hope she is wrong.
My uncle Matt, lives in Washington State, about an hour north of Seattle in Index, Washington. He has a waterfall in his backyard. The waterfall is called Sunset Falls. A large company called PUD and the American government want to put a dam near sunset falls. Although, this is not a local dilemma. The environmental impact is far reaching.
I will discuss some of the pros and cons of what I have learned from the webite savesunsetfalls.com, which has a couple articles and a short video about putting a dam near sunset falls. The river that of the proposed dam is called Skykomish river.
Some reasons to go ahead and build a small dam would be to produce energy. Producing energy from a dam is considered by some to be green energy. There may be some jobs created for the construction of the dam. Elected officials and big business will feel like they did their job in creating green energy.
Some reasons not to build a dam would include saving wildlife. Lots of wildlife depend on the Skykomish river as it now flows. If you put up a dam, the bulltrout, already a threatened species of fish, could become extinct. And the Salmon would have a hard time completing their life cycle. The new dam is proposed to drain 1.2 miles of the river . Forty to sixty percent of the river’s discharge would be funneled into a tunnel, which would then go through the turbines. The fish that go through the turbines will mostly die. The dam would likely increase the water temperature and limit sediment transport. The video I watched indicates that the ecosystem would be greatly altered for all of these reasons.
The size of the dam , which would be considered small, could be up to a 1000 feet wide and 200 feet tall. There would also be a lot of light pollution. Light pollution is created by light/light bulbs that humans have put in place to keep things visible even during nighttime hours for reasons such as security. Looking at the night sky would be very different because of all the lights that would be needed near the dam.
The area that this dam would be going into is considered remote, due to the small number of people in the area, the poor roads that lead to the actual river. If you want to see Sunset Falls, it is suggested that you park and walk about a mile and a half. The area is mountainous, which would increase the cost and the environmental impact would be greater trying to get all of the heavy equipment in. Many acres of land would have to be clear cut of the trees and roads would have to go up in wilderness areas.
The short video I watched on the website indicates that there are better alternatives to creating a bunch of small dams because several small dams would only increase the energy output by 762 megawatts. The alternatives would include improving efficiency of dams already in place , which could increase the energy output by 2500 megawatts. With new energy sources being used more money would be needed to make the proper infrastructure so that the energy could go to where it is needed. Some energy in Washington is already unused because it cannot get to where it needs to go. So, improving and adding to the current infrastructure might be a better way to spend energy dollars. Also the video suggested that wind, tidal generation, and solar would be considered green energy. And that money would be better spent on these options.
My uncle has a lot to lose if the dam goes into his neighborhood. He might have a view of a ten story dam building. His night sounds and sights would definetly change. He may not be able to catch salmon or hike the same trails. I really only know one side of the story, but I sure hope everyone involved considers some of the potential problems before they start building lots of small dams.
Terry Wick –
April 3, 2012
Good afternoon, my name is Terry Wick. I am a rate payer to Snohomish County PUD in two locations and I am a registered voter. I am here today to voice my opposition to the proposed dam site at Canyon Falls and Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River.
My family has owned property in G Section since the early 70’s. Our usage of our property is year round. We have an annual family reunion and now there are four generations of family that enjoy all of the beauty of the river including floating down in inner tubes and swimming in the pool at the community beach area. That pool would be inaccessible to everyone. It would become an extreme mortal danger. What you are proposing would forever spoil the character of this sanctuary. This is a neighborhood filled with families that utilize the area and the water. It is the only site that is located in a solely private neighborhood. There is no amount of mitigation that would undue the damage to this land.
I will admit that until this project came up, I thought that dams were a clean and harmless way to generate power and my first objection was that I didn’t want it in my backyard. My next thought was about all of the existing dams that have either been abandon or are being taken down. I am appalled that PUD would be willing to sacrifice one of the last unspoiled rivers in the state for the extreme minimal amount of power to be gained. In an age of reuse and recycle, why would you not invest the money you are willing to spend in this project into retro fitting the already spoiled areas where dams have been abandon? Especially given the latest information regarding the glut of power. I applaud PUD for all of the forward thinking in developing other sources of power but I truly believe that you are being extremely short sited by trying to develop this site.
I’m certain that you all know that the Skykomish River already has the State designation of Wild & Scenic River and that it has been nominated at the national level by the Forest Service for the same designation. It is surrounded by the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Sky Wilderness areas. Both falls are clearly visible by hikers to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls. With the installation of your proposed dam those views will be forever damaged, impacting millions of people. It is unclear to me how PUD could ignore all of that and push through its own agenda. Also ignoring the voter approved I-937 mandates that clearly disqualifies new impoundments. There have already been three previous studies to this site and they all determined that this is not a viable site for installing a dam.
David Aldrich has stated that you will not force this project if a majority of people voice opposition. I’m sure you are all aware of the online petition. As of today there have been over 1500 people signing their opposition. In addition the opposition is also supported by at least eight national organizations that support maintaining wilderness areas. My question would be what is the magic number that will convince the council members that this is not a popular idea and should not be built?
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.