Another Look at Enloe Dam Says the Project Is Still Uneconomical

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Conservation Groups and members of the Hydropower Reform Coalition today released an updated economics report by Rocky Mountain Econometrics (RME) on the proposed re-generation of power at Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River.

An original study was completed in 2011 that showed that the project would lose money on every megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced.  The 2014 report addresses how mandated and potentially increased minimum flows through the bypass reach, and over Similkameen Falls, would further impact the Public Utility District No. 1 of Okanogan County's (OPUD) original 2008 license application projections. 

The report concludes:

  • Construction costs continue to increase. RME estimates that inflation will drive Enloe's cost to about $40 million and above in subsequent years.
  • Depending on the amount of water dedicated to minimum instream flows, Enloe will lose between $1.1 million and $1.5 million for each year the project operates.  A loss of $25 to $41 on every MWh of electricity produced.
  • OPUD will see operating income of only $2.1 million a year, and operating costs totaling $3,193,696.  It will cost OPUD $1.1 million to more each year to operate the dam than it would cost to purchase the power on the open market.

The report also addressed OPUD's claim that it can operate Enloe at a long-term loss (40+ years) and then see a profit once construction debt has been retired. RME's report finds a far different economic scenario, and that at the end of year 40, when the original loan is paid off, accumulated losses plus interest will have grown to nearly $170 million, more than four times the original cost of construction.  At that time, Enloe will be losing about $10 million per year and the net present value will never generate a profit.

The only way for the OPUD to avoid those losses is to pass them off to ratepayers which would increase rates between 5% and 6%. Based on 20,000 ratepayers and a minimum instream flow of 300 cfs, this would equate to an increase of $50 for each ratepayer, each year, in perpetuity.

Over the past year, nonprofits, agencies and tribes have attempted to work with the OPUD to find a way to remove this dam which has been abandoned since 1958.  OPUD has re-buffed each attempt, and today, notwithstanding evidence of project monetary losses and other uncertainties, the OPUD continues to pursue repowering Enloe Dam.

Read the press release and the new report.