By CR Roberts
It was President Calvin Coolidge who pressed the button that started the juice flowing from Tacoma Power’s Cushman Dam hydroelectric project in 1926. That was Dam No. 1.
Dam No. 2, smaller and downstream on the Skokomish River, came in 1930.
Now, Tacoma Power is seeking a $4.7 million grant from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to build a new generation facility nearby.
The project, according to Tacoma Power spokeswoman Chris Gleason, qualifies for funding from the Department of Energy’s Hydroelectric Facility Modernization program, “which aims to support hydropower projects that would modernize the existing hydropower infrastructure in the U.S.”
“Since March of 2008 we have been discharging significant amounts of water from the Cushman No. 2 dam into the North Fork of the Skokomish River,” said Tacoma Power General Manager Pat McCarty in a release Thursday. “If we receive federal funding, we plan to build a powerhouse and use that water to generate clean, renewable energy.”
The new powerhouse will incorporate a unique “fish passage system” that would help restore steelhead and salmon runs that have been blocked since the 1920s. The project has the support of the Skokomish Tribe, the release said.
The total cost of the project, $23.6 million, will be borne by the grant, if approved, plus $24.8 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, the application for which is under review by the Internal Revenue System. (The difference in the cost and the value of the bonds and the grant is primarily due to the cost of bond issuance, Gleason said.)
If the energy bonds are not allocated, then the utility likely plans to issue conventional tax-exempt debt instruments (i.e. municipal bonds), she said.
C.R. Roberts, The News Tribune