The Snohomish County PUD has decided to halt plans for a new hydropower scheme on the South Fork Skykomish River.

After a thorough review of its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the PUD’s Board of Commissioners directed staff not to pursue a final federal license for the Sunset Falls hydropower project. It instead told staff to pursue a range of future energy resources identified in the plan, with a continued emphasis on cost-effective conservation and renewable energy resources.

The IRP has forecasted that on an annual basis, over the next 10 years, due to expected energy conservation, the PUD will not need the additional energy that the Sunset Hydropower Project would provide. The IRP is expected to be formally adopted by the PUD Commission in May.

“Our planning process has concluded that our considerable success with energy conservation by the utility and its customers has helped minimize the need for new energy resources,” said PUD Commission President Kathy Vaughn. “However, if higher growth occurs over the longer term, 10 years or beyond, the PUD could seek out additional energy resources in the mid-2020s time period.”

Since 2009, the PUD has worked to study and assess the potential for a hydropower project on the South Fork Skykomish River. Working under the guidelines set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the PUD sought input from a broad range of stakeholders, including interested members of the public, federal and state agencies, and local tribes. Despite the value of the hydropower project – as a local, carbon-free resource that fits well with higher customer winter demand needs – the PUD has decided not to pursue a final application with FERC for the Sunset Hydropower project.

The research of the Sunset Project was part of a larger effort by the PUD to identify viable hydropower projects in the region. In 2009-2010 the utility did considerable work to develop a list of 140 sites in four counties in Western Washington. This list was then short-listed to 30 sites and then to about a dozen. Numerous stakeholders provided input to the site reviews. For three sites, FERC draft licenses applications were filed, including the Sunset Project.  Two other projects were subsequently developed at Hancock and Calligan Creeks above Snoqualmie Falls, northeast of North Bend, Wash.

The PUD has had considerable success operating hydropower projects in Western Washington. Both its Jackson Hydropower Project and its Youngs Creek Project have been honored for their design and operations by environmental and energy industry organizations.