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December 1 Deadline: Help Protect Our Endangered Fish and Wildlife On the Skykomish River

A low-power dam threatens the South Fork Skykomish River, currently designated a Washington State Scenic River to protect it from hydropower dams. It is also protected by the Northwest Energy & Conservation Council for its valuable fish and wildlife, many of which are on the Endangered Species List.

You can help protect the South Fork Skykomish River from the Sunset Falls dam proposed by Snohomish Public Utilities District (PUD). The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is taking comments on the PUD proposal.

Please read why the Sierra Club and our allies oppose a dam at Sunset Falls and follow the instructions below to submit your comments to FERC. Comments are being accepted through Sunday December 1st.

Five previous proposals to put hydropower projects in the same location were deemed “unfeasible” due to the lack of water in the South Fork Skykomish River to generate power and provide safe downstream passage for salmon, steelhead, and Dolly Varden (ESA listed).

  • Two of the most recent proposals (1981 and 1991) were submitted by the same parties involved in SnoPUD’s current proposal. In both instances NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Dept. of Interior recommended against allowing a hydro project at Sunset Falls because of unacceptable adverse impacts to fish and wildlife of the South Fork Skykomish River. They stated that mitigation is most likely unattainable.

Copper, a mineral deadly to salmon and harmful to humans, has been repeatedly omitted from SnoPUD’s proposed mineral studies.

  • PUD has been advised repeatedly about risks of catastrophic effects from copper in or near a salmon-bearing river, yet they continue to omit copper from their mineral studies. Sunset Falls is located in the “Copper Belt” of Snohomish and King Counties, so the presence of copper in the project area is highly likely.
  • Even minute amounts of copper destroy the ability of salmon to “smell their way” back to their spawning grounds and to detect predators. The Sierra Club insists that FERC require a scientifically-reliable mineral study that includes copper.

PUD’s proposal to study the environmental impacts of their hydro project is based on inaccurate information.

  • PUD claims that there are “negligible risks” of heavy metals (including arsenic) in the project area and surrounding waters. Yet a professional, scientific study commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service (2011) reveals high concentrations of heavy metals and toxins (arsenic, copper, lead, etc.). Millions of federal dollars have been allocated to clean up the area.
    • Toxic minerals and heavy metals are naturally occurring in the granite and soils of the “Copper Belt,” where the proposed project is located. When left undisturbed, they pose no threat. But construction of industrial projects like PUD’s hydro plant exposes the river to poisonous minerals. If contaminated, the waterway, which flows into Puget Sound, would pose serious health hazards to fish, wildlife, and humans. Puget Sound Partnership is working to rescue polluted Puget Sound. We need to partner with them. We must not allow the Sound to become even more toxic.

FERC will accept your comments through Sunday December 1. Submit a comment using the link below.    www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp Here's how to navigate the comment submission form.

  1. First read the Important Information, then click the eComment link.
  2. Identify yourself and confirm your email address.
  3. Check your email for a link to the comment page.
  4. Click the link, enter the Docket Number: P-14295-001, and click Search.
  5. After the docket displays in the next line, click the blue Select + button.
  6. Enter your concerns in the comment section and submit your feedback to FERC.