Enloe Dam Website Contents -

  1. - News

  2. - Courtroom Updates (PCHB April 16-19, 2013)

Links -

American Whitewater Similkameen River

American Rivers

Columbia River Bioregional Education Project

Hydropower Reform Coalition

Contacts -

Rachael Paschal Osborn, Center for Environmental Law & Policy

Jere Gillespie, Columbia Bioregional Education Project

Rich Bowers, Hydropower Reform Coalition

Thomas O’Keefe, American Whitewater

Project History

The Enloe Dam obstructs the Similkameen River just upriver from the confluence with the Okanogan River.  In dimensions, the concrete dam is 54 feet high, arching 276 feet across the river.  The reservoir -- now mostly filled with over 2 million cubic yards of sediment -- is 2 miles long, 200 feet wide, and about 9 feet deep.  The dam can be accessed by driving upriver from Oroville on County Road 9425, or from Canada through the border crossing at Chopaka.

Enloe Dam, Similkameen Falls. (photo - Okanogan PUD)
The Similkameen River drains the east slope of the Cascade Mountains.  Most of the 3,600 square mile watershed -- 90 percent -- is in Canada. The Enloe Dam plugs the Similkameen River near its confluence with the Okanogan River.     Click on map to enlarge

Enloe Dam and Similkameen River (center), confluence with Okanogan River (right) at Oroville, WA.  Yellow line is the international boundary. Click on map to enlarge

Construction of Enloe Dam was completed in 1920 by Eugene Enloe to provide power for mines near the community of Nighthawk.  Washington Waterpower purchased the dam, and in 1942 sold it to the Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD).

In 1956, the Federal Power Commission (FERC ’s predecessor agency) issued a license to the PUD for the project. In 1959, the PUD ceased operation of the project because the generating equipment had become obsolete and the dam could not compete with less costly power sold by the Bonneville Power Agency. 

Salmon blocked by Enloe Dam.

In 1981,the PUD filed a new FERC application to license a project at Enloe Dam, then referred to as the Enloe Project (Project No. 2062). FERC issued the license in 1983. Three years later FERC rescinded the new license on the grounds that anadromous fishery issues had to be resolved before a licensing decision could be made.

In 1991, the PUD filed a second application.  In 1996 FERC granted a license for a 4.1 megawatt project.  At the PUD’s request, FERC stayed the license and, in 2000, rescinded it.  Ongoing uncertainty and disagreements over upstream anadromous fish passage explain FERC’s rescinding licenses in 1986 and 2000.

In 2005 the PUD received a permit from FERC that gave it priority in seeking a license at Enloe Dam.


Okanogan PUD


Updates –

July 24. 2014

Conservation Groups Appeal Enloe dam Water Right Decision

Ruling fails to recognize public interest in water resources

Conservation groups appealed a June 24, 2014 decision of the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board affirming a new, 600 cfs water right for the Okanogan Public Utility District’s (PUD) Enloe Hydroelectric Project.  The Board ruled that the water right permit could be issued even though a critical, and legally required, aesthetic flow study is yet to be completed. The aesthetic flow study was required by the Board in a water quality permit (“401 Certification”) for the same project and is designed to ascertain the flows that are necessary to protect scenic values of the Similkameen Falls.  A coalition of regional and national river advocacy groups* appealed the Board’s decision because it fails to comply with state Water Code requirements. 

“The Board attempted to bring consistency between the two permits for the project, but unfortunately it did so at the expense of bedrock principles of Washington water law.” said Andrea Rodgers Harris, a Seattle-based environmental attorney representing the coalition groups.  “In particular, the Board ruled that it was not necessary to first find that the public interest will not be harmed by the water right, and that decision can be deferred until after the hydro project is built.  In essence, the Board put the cart before the horse and that approach is illegal when it comes to our state’s precious water resources.”

In a previous proceeding, the Board criticized and overturned Ecology’s minimum flow regime for Similkameen Falls, which reduces natural flows by more than 90% to 30 cfs during summer months, and 10 cfs from October through March each year.   The Board ruled that the PUD and Ecology must conduct a study to determine the appropriate flow for protection of the Falls, which could be substantially larger than the 10/30 cfs regime.  The appeal challenges the Board’s opinion that the 10/30 cfs flow number was the default for minimum flows in the river, even though it had previously ruled that this number did not have credible scientific support.

Similkameen Falls has become a regional attraction due to development of local and regional trail systems.   The Falls also have important cultural and ecological value.

“The Similkameen River is a valuable resource to the community for recreation, scenic values, and fish and wildlife.  As with other rivers across the state, recognition of the importance of flows for aesthetic and recreational purposes is important to our organization. We will continue to press legal issues that protect the Similkameen River and Falls as multi-use public resource given the significance of this decision for rivers statewide,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director with American Whitewater.

The Board’s decision has statewide significance because it effectively waives the public interest test for new water rights.  The Department of Ecology Water Resources Program is in the middle of a multi-year project of issuing thousands of new water rights around the state.   The public interest test, one of four basic prongs of a water right decision, is used to protect environmental, ecological and other values associated with state water resources.  

“The state cannot issue permits that take all of the water out of rivers.  The Enloe Dam appeal sends a message of statewide significance that the Department of Ecology must issue permits that promote balanced use of Washington's waterways,” said John Osborn with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

The Board’s decision comes at a time of growing uncertainty about the Enloe Project’s viability, especially given electrical rate increases to PUD customers for the next several years.  The fact that the amount of instream flows that will be required by the project is currently unknown raises even more uncertainty for a project with few power or economic paybacks.  There is growing opposition by Okanogan PUD ratepayers to pursue Enloe Dam given its outdated cost and revenue projections.   Discussions about removal of Enloe dam are now underway.

The appeal was filed today in Thurston County Superior Court, which provides appellate review of the decisions of the Pollution Control Hearings Board.   Defendants include the Washington Department of Ecology, which issued the water right, and Okanogan Public Utility District, which proposes to add hydroelectric generation to the Enloe dam.  

*The appellant groups are Center for Environmental Law & Policy, American Whitewater, and North Cascades Conservation Council (all member groups of the Hydropower Reform Coalition).  The waterfalls advocates are represented by public interest attorneys Andrea Rodgers Harris and Rachael Paschal Osborn.

link -

- Conservationists’ Petition for Review

August 13, 2012   Groups Appeal State’s Decision to Dewater Similkameen Falls

Several national, state, and Okanogan County-based public interest organizations appealed a decision by the Washington State Department of Ecology that would allow a proposed hydropower project on the Similkameen River to move forward.  The project, proposed by Okanogan PUD, would reduce Similkameen Falls to a trickle. The Falls are located immediately downstream of the dam and could potentially attract thousands of visitors to the area each year, bringing up to $516,000 to the local economy. The groups appealed the decision because Ecology failed to adequately consider the water quality and aesthetic impacts of the project, which are an important part of the state’s water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.

View:  full news release

January 24, 2012  Economics & Enloe Dam

A new analysis completed by Rocky Mountain Econometrics of Boise, ID reveals the extreme unprofitably of the proposed Enloe hydropower project on Washington's Similkameen River.  The study concludes that it is not possible for the Okanogan PUD to sell power from Enloe at or above the cost of producing it, and that the PUD will lose $26 for every megawatt hour produced at the dam. 

The study was prepared for the Columbia River Bioregional Education Project, in partnership with Hydropower Reform Coalition Members American Rivers, American Whitewater, Center for Environmental Law and Policy, North Cascades Conservation Council, and the Washington Chapter of the Sierra Club.  Conservation and recreation groups are calling on the Okanogan PUD to replace its out-of-date 2008 analysis and provide ratepayers with a realistic evaluation of Enloe Dam economics.

View – Economic Analysis

View – News Release

Enloe Dam - Similkameen River