Snohomish PUD could save millions with damless hydropower project

The Snohomish County Public Utilities District No. 1 will be able to save itself US$10 million by not constructing a dam, weir or other barriers as part of a proposed 30 MW hydroelectric project on Washington’s South Fork Skykomish River.

The plant would be a run-of-river addition to the state-owned Sunset Falls fish passage facility, made possible due to the unique geography of the river.

Snohomish PUD said the South Fork Skykomish turns a complete 180 degrees upstream from the falls, creating a deep pool that can accommodate an underwater intake structure. Water would flow from the intake through a half-mile long underground tunnel to the powerhouse, leaving sufficient water for fish, aesthetics and recreation.

“We have proven success delivering low-impact hydropower projects that provide multiple benefits to our customers,” said Kim Moore, Assistant General Manager of Water, Generation and Corporate Services. “This project could be a valuable addition to our portfolio.

The utility also said updating editing the fish plant’s existing intake area and fish screens would cut excavation needs in half, reducing construction by an estimated six months.

“Among the low-impact projects we identified in the past seven years, it’s the lowest-cost power source,” Moore said.

Snohomish PUD was awarded a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project in March 2012.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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