Dozens tell utility they do not want dam
By Gary DeVon
Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune
OROVILLE – Over 120 people attended a meeting last week on a feasibility study on water storage at Shanker’s Bend, many voiced their concerns that a dam, no matter how high, would flood their property.
The meeting was held by Okanogan County PUD which got a grant from the state Department of Ecology to study the possibility of storing water behind a dam at Shanker’s Bend, about five miles northwest of Oroville on the Similkameen River. Discussed were dams of three heights, their estimated costs to build, their potential for water storage, electrical power generation and flood control.
A consultant on the study, Jeremy Pratt of Entrix, discussed the potential benefits and costs of each of the dam height options as outlined in the report. The High Dam would have the most far reaching effect, inundating some 1.3 million acre-feet, backing water up all the way into Canada. The Medium Dam would store 138,000 acre-feet and the Low Dam would store 20,000 acre-feet. The High Dam would have the potential to generate 74 megawatts, Medium Dam 23.2 MW and Low Dam, 19.5 MW. As far as flood control the study found the High Dam could greatly control potential floods, the Medium Dam would be significantly less effective and the Low Dam would have little impact on flood control. Estimated costs also varied greatly with the High Dam coming in at $1.02 billion; Medium Dam, $329 million and Low Dam, $289 million.
Dan Boettger, with the Okanogan County PUD, explained that the Okanogan County Commissioners agreed to do the study which was funded by Ecology to be first in line should the project prove to be feasible. He said by doing so it kept the control locally and prevented other entities from out of the area from developing the project. He also introduced the three PUD Commissioners who attended the meeting, Trish Butler, David Womack and Ernie Bolz. State Senator Bob Morton from the Seventh District also attended.
Several people asked to comment on the potential dam, with many against all three options, but the high and medium dam options gathered the most criticism.
“I know you’re very excited about this from reading about it in the magazines and newspapers. I question the representation of Palmer Lake when you refer to cabins. My place is a little over 5500 square feet,” said Kathleen Lindsey, a Palmer Lake resident who has been rehabilitating the old Biles-Coleman Lodge on the hillside across the Loomis-Oroville Highway from the lake. The high dam option would inundate her property, putting the lodge under water.
“Why are we doing an old-fashioned dam when the government is talking about new energy alternatives?” she asked the PUD representatives.
Lindsey added that she enjoys the loons and the owls in the Palmer Lake area.
“Will you damage the last frontier?” she asked.
Dana Young, Lindsey’s son questioned why Okanogan County PUD set up the meeting in too small a room.
“It’s hot and I can’t hear… imagine what it would have been like if you got the word out?” he asked.
“The pros are understated and the cons are not understood. You’ve got to spend more money to find the cons and the cons will overcome the pros,” he said. “Raising the potential of people losing their homes there’s a cost – emotional and physical.”
Rob Stone said, “Every time I read a communiqué in the newspaper I hear about how everyone in the valley is overjoyed – where are these people… King, Pierce County?”
Tascha Spears lives at Nighthawk. “Our land is not for sale,” she said.
“I’m Frank Grunert and I am a property owner downstream. The Similkameen is a dangerous river. I feel we need the dam for flood control, energy and recreation,” Grunert said. “The dam would create a bigger lake and it would be good for things like owls and other wildlife.”
John Newton said he and his family have lived on the Similkameen River for five generations, more when you include his Native American ansestors.
“I don’t think it should be done. The siltafication of the Similkameen River, includes not just mine tailings but all the silt already behind the dam [Enloe Dam],” he said. “There’s a very good chance you’ll have an 1100 foot pool of mud.”
Newton added, “If you are really considering a 1289 foot level dam, why hasn’t every Canadian, Native and Caucasion not heard of it? I believe the high dam is a Straw Man to get us afraid so you can put in the medium or low dam,”
Hoagie Shaddock said he worked for the PUD for 37 years and remembers the floods of 1948 and 1972.
“The water was backed up wherever it could,” he said. “Once the water goes over the rocks it’s gone. We need the dam for flood control and water storage. I am against the top, but believe we could do the middle one.”
Mark Kubiac, who commented earlier in the meeting, said he worried about the toxic tailings located above the current level of the water. He said by raising the water level with a dam the toxic materials would be introduced into the river.
David Buckmiller, from Oroville, said, “I haven’t heard anyone in favor of the high dam… the low dam has always been a dream of mine… a nice lake, not too much. I don’t blame people who like the river just like it is though.”
Anne Terbasket, who lives upriver from the proposed dam site in Canada, said, “Our history goes back a long ways… long before your people came… long before the Hudson’s Bay.”
She asked what the PUD planned on doing about the Tribal people’s harvest resources.
“Now you want to control the water… what about our children to be… you have no respect,” she said.
The PUD representatives thanked those who were in attendence for their comments. They asked those who wanted to be kept informed of future meetings and studies to put their name and contact information on a sign-in sheet and the meeting ended.