Demanding Responsible Decisions from Snohomish PUD

Snohomish PUD wants to spend up to $260 million on a risky, unnecessary hydropower project on the scenic Skykomish River. Do YOU support this use of your resources?

To tell the Snohomish Public Utility District Commissioners what you think:

Quick Facts About Snohomish PUD's Proposed Sunset Falls Hydropower Project

Proposed Location:


On the South Fork of the Skykomish River near Index, WA, near the Wild Sky Wilderness and popular hiking trails.

How Much Has It Cost So Far?


The exploratory phase has already cost $6.5 million, nearly 4 times more than anticipated.

How Much Would It Cost to Build?


As of 2016 the estimated construction cost is $173.3 million, with a high of up to $260 million.  (That's up 30% since 2013.)


Do We Need the Power?


No. Snohomish PUD's energy demand forecast has dropped significantly since the time the project was first proposed,  and Snohomish PUD Commissioner Toni Olson told the Everett Herald in July 2016 she didn't believe the project is necessary to meet demand.

Are There Better Alternatives?


Yes. In 2015 Snohomish PUD began exploring an alternative "Winter Capacity Product" that would be much less expensive than power from the Sunset Falls project:  $59 per Megawatt Hour (MWh) instead of $99 to $146 per MWh for Sunset Falls power.

What's the Project Timeframe?


Snohomish PUD expects to submit its Final License Application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2017. If approved, construction would start around 2020.

How Much Power Would It Provide?


SnoPUD says average projected capacity would power 10,275 homes. However:

- They used outdated weather and flow data (starting from 1928) to estimate production through 2070.

- They based power generation estimates on a bypass reach flow much lower than what is legally allowed.

Is This a Dam with Storage Capacity?


No, it's a run-of-river facility. This means it has no dam, which means no storage capacity and therefore it would have no ability to time production to match peaks in demand.

Serious Problems with the Skykomish River Sunset Falls Hydropower Project

IT'S BAD FOR RATEPAYERS:

1.
SNOHOMISH PUD RATEPAYERS ARE ON THE HOOK FOR EXPENSES

Snohomish PUD policy sets electricity rates high enough to cover operating costs and debt service of their Generation System (which would build the hydro project).  This means that no matter how much the Sunset Falls project ends up costing, SnoPUD ratepayers are on the hook for it.

2.
BLASTING WOULD TAKE PLACE NEXT TO AN ACTIVE LANDSLIDE

There is a large, ongoing landslide 330 feet from Sunset Falls. Snohomish PUD's own criteria state that project sites should not be in locations known to be geologically unstable.

The Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) determined in 2016 that SnoPUD has not followed its own geologists' recommendations regarding measures to monitor slope movement. Further monitoring as recommended would increase the project's costs.

3.
POWER OUTPUT PREDICTIONS ARE BASED ON OUTDATED INFORMATION

Snohomish PUD is basing its projections for this 50-year project on river flow data starting in 1928, despite the fact that climate change has had its greatest effect since the 1970's and is expected to become far more significant in the coming decades.

4.
POWER OUTPUT WOULD LIKELY BE LOWERED BY CHANGES IN RUNOFF PATTERNS

Climate experts say we can expect more frequent and extreme rain flooding events during fall and winter in coming years. The Sunset Falls facility would have to stop operating at flows of over 8,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), well below flood stage.

5.
CONSTRUCTION COST OVERRUNS ARE HIGHLY LIKELY

- The exploratory phase was projected to cost $1.7 million, but already cost $6.5 million as of August 2016.
- Construction projects tend to come in over budget, not under.
- Materials and labor costs are going up, not down.

ITS BAD FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE
(This affects ALL Washington residents.)

6.
HIGHER WATER TEMPERATURES COULD ENDANGER THREATENED SALMON

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined in 2016 that SnoPUD has not made clear how it would de-water the river while maintaining safe water temperatures for salmon. Mitigating any harm to a federally listed fish species would add substantially to cost.

7.
POPULAR RECREATION WOULD BE ADVERSELY AFFECTED

Outdoor recreation brings in $20.5 billion (yes, that's billion) to the Washington state economy each year. The Highway 2 corridor is booming. The thousands of hikers who enjoy the beloved Lake Serene trail each year go there to experience a tranquil and beautiful wilderness, not to hear construction blasting and see a de-watered Sunset Falls.

8.
LOW WATER LEVELS ON THE FALLS WOULD HARM MIGRATING SALMON

SnoPUD commissioned a study that relied on computer modeling using fish-like particles and photographs (not observation) of flows over 250 cfs to determine that a de-watered flow of 250 cfs on Sunset Falls was less harmful to out-migrating salmon than a flow of 2,500 cfs. The Tulalip Tribes commissioned an independent study that essentially trashed the SnoPUD study's methods, and pointed out that SnoPUD's findings contradicted previous studies and observed results.

9.
TOXIC LEACHATE COULD POLLUTE THE SKYKOMISH RIVER

Previous mining operations have already released arsenic and heavy metals into the Skykomish River. FERC determined in 2016 that SnoPUD's plan does not adequately address how it would monitor and dispose of toxic or acid-producing soil either during or after construction. Fixing pollution problems in rivers that support salmon is very expensive.

Remember, SnoPUD is the same company that brought us the monthly billing fiasco.

If Snohomish PUD managed to so completely botch a simple billing transition (and lose millions of dollars in the process), how can ratepayers trust them to manage an extremely complicated, risky 50-year project like the Sunset Falls Hydropower Project?

This is simply about demanding responsible decisions from Snohomish PUD.


Sometimes hydropower is a reasonable solution. The proposed Sunset Falls hydropower facility, however, is not. Snohomish PUD's own data show that this project has very high potential to become a money pit.

Add an environmental fiasco to that equation (i.e. high salmonid mortality due to increased water temperatures, leaching of heavy metals into the Skykomish River) and suddenly the potential costs skyrocket. Not to mention, the long-term damage will already be done.

Here's a Better Idea:

Let's Save Millions of Ratepayer Dollars

(And the Free-Flowing Skykomish River)

The Snohomish PUD commissioners are currently "revisiting" the Sunset Falls project's value...
But, they're undecided
This means they need to hear from YOU.

Snohomish County Ratepayers:

We'll face higher rates if this expensive project is approved.

Washington State Taxpayers:

You could be asked to help foot the bill if there's a big clean-up for environmental damage.

And don't forget...

We all lose when one of the last free-flowing rivers in Washington and a beautiful area next to the Wild Sky Wilderness are subject to years of blasting and construction, all for an expensive energy facility that is likely to be outdated long before the end of its life span. Let's not let that happen.

TELL THE COMMISSIONERS WHAT YOU THINK TODAY

Please click the button below to see how you can quickly and easily submit a short form asking the Snohomish PUD Commissioners to abandon the Sunset Falls project immediately.

Are you wondering if all this is true?

If so, we salute you! We believe the world needs more people who care about the facts. Please head over to our Facts Check pages (top menu) to review our supporting documents and analysis methods. You can click here to go to Facts Check Page 1.