Restoring the Similkameen River by removing Enloe Dam
Until 2019, the Okanagon Public Utility District planned to re-energize north-central Washington’s dormant Enloe Dam, a 94-foot concrete wall blocking hundreds of miles of upstream salmon and steelhead habitat in the Upper Columbia River system. Dubious economics and a WELC court challenge combined to lead the public utility to abandon its inadvisable plan to revive the dam. Now, we’re taking the next logical steps toward a restored, free-flowing Similkameen River — removing Enloe Dam altogether.
The dam looms over one of the most culturally significant sites in north central Washington, the Similkameen Falls. Similkameen Falls, just outside Oroville, Washington, has an enduring reputation as a major aesthetic feature on the lower Similkameen River. The falls and the plunge pool below are of the highest cultural and historic value to the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. Hunting, fishing, root gathering camps, and more than 50 vision quest sites are well-documented at and around Similkameen Falls.
Removing Enloe Dam would open up nearly 200 miles of steelhead habitat in the Upper Columbia River system. Dam removal has the potential to boost Upper Columbia River steelhead populations, resident bull trout population, and could help increase Chinook salmon numbers, which in turn may help the critically imperiled southern resident killer whales. Our partners have continued to gather information on the impact the dam is having on the Similkameen River and the fish that rely on it. We have recently witnessed and documented fish, most likely chinook salmon, jumping at the foot of the dam.
WELC is committed to healing the Similkameen River. Removing Enloe Dam will provide so many ecological, cultural, and aesthetic benefits, it’s the clear choice, and the only sensible path forward.
Protecting Puget Sound Chinook Salmon, Bull Trout, and Steelhead
The Puyallup River originates in glaciers along the slopes of Mount Rainier in the Cascade Mountains in Washington and flows through lands owned by the Puyallup Tribe to Commencement Bay in Puget Sound. Historically, the Puyalllup River watershed supported healthy populations of Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout. Today, all three species are threatened with extinction.
Part of the problem lies at Electron Dam on the Puyallup River. Dam operators divert water from the river into a forebay where protected fish are killed by predation and turbidity, or destroyed in powerhouse turbines and penstock. The operator of the dam does not possess a federal permit or other authorization that would allow it to kill any threatened fish.
Representing American Rivers and American Whitewater, in 2015 we filed suit against the dam operator to stop its violation of the Endangered Species Act and help put Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout on the road to recovery in the Puyallup River.