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Monday, May 16, 2011

Hydro projects proposed for Hancock and Calligan creeks

Snohomish P.U.D. has filed for permits to construct hydroelectric projects on Hancock and Calligan creeks, both tributaries of the North Fork Snoqualmie north of Mount Si, at the very western edge of the Alpine Lakes region. Although the area in question is private land and not at all pristine, NCCC and other conservationists nonetheless regard the proposals with concern.

Experience has shown that once some projects like this get built in an area, others tend to follow once the infrastructure of roads and powerlines is put in. Although these two projects may not seem that harmful if looked at in isolation, many other projects have been proposed in the North Fork Snoqualmie and in virtually every other major watershed outside of park and wilderness areas all around the North Cascades. Falling water is what gives the Cascades their name, but there are those who would like to see much of that water diverted into pipes and spinning turbines.

The European Alps offer a unfortunate example of what can happen. Natural free flowing streams are a rare sight there since most of the water in streams big and small has long since been diverted for power generation. The sound of falling water, always somewhere in the background in the Cascades, is seldom heard there. In Washington state many large dams have already been constructed on almost all major rivers. Small projects like those proposed on Hancock and Calligan produce only tiny amounts of energy compared with big existing dams, and the vast majority of what power they do produce is generated only during high spring runoff when need is lowest.

NCCC believes Cascades streamwater is better left flowing over rocks rather than diverted through pipes, and questions whether the extremely small incremental increase in electricity supply is worth extending generation facilities like these into undeveloped areas of the Cascades.

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