Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1

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Customer Service (M-F 8a-5:30p): 425-783-1000

Frequently Asked Questions

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Why is the PUD considering small hydropower projects?

For the PUD, securing more locally generated, carbon-free, renewable energy resources creates a diverse, carbon-free energy supply. The PUD’s elected Board of Commissioners has made a commitment to meeting growing energy needs through cost-effective conservation and renewable energy resources. The utility faces potential load growth in Snohomish County and Camano Island of 10 percent by 2020, and this service area is expected to reach nearly 1 million residents in the next 20 years. Despite aggressive conservation efforts, the PUD needs to supplement its generation resources to meet existing and future demands for energy. The PUD has been investigating numerous renewable resource options (small hydropower, tidal, geothermal, wind, solar, etc.) to determine which potential projects could provide customers with a reliable, cost-effective energy resource with minimal impacts to the environment.

Why is the PUD studying the Sunset Fish Passage and Energy Project site?

After review of 140 potential hydroelectric sites, the proposed Sunset Fish Passage and Energy Project, located on the South Fork of the Skykomish River, was considered one of the most viable sites for additional study. The project is close to existing transmission facilities and two natural barriers (Sunset Falls and Canyon Falls).

In addition, a project has several benefits:

  • Clean, renewable resource within the PUD service territory, keeping dollars in the local economy
  • Close to existing transmission lines to minimize line losses
  • Non-polluting resource with no heat or noxious gas releases
  • Competitive (or better) in price to other green resources
  • Has a production profile that matches Washington’s winter peak load
  • Complementary to intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar
  • Uses a proven technology with a long life, of up to 100 years or more
Will there be an opportunity for public participation in the development of the project?

The PUD takes the public process very seriously, and it will hold public meetings as necessary to discuss the potential project. In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requires significant input from interested members of the public as well as federal and state agencies, and local tribes, as part of the licensing process for hydropower projects. The PUD also will engage with the public and potential stakeholders during the FERC process.

What is the Preliminary Permit Application the PUD filed with FERC?

The PUD filed a Preliminary Permit Application in September 2011. Issued by the FERC on March 2, 2012, the permit allows the PUD to study the proposed project for three years to determine if a license application should be filed. The permit allows the PUD to study feasibility without the risk of having another entity (such as an independent power producer) file for a license on the same area. The permit does not authorize construction of a project.

How could the project benefit the community?

Local projects help the PUD control the cost of power for all of its customers. It also helps minimize the need for additional transmission systems for energy coming from sources farther away and keeps funds spent on energy development in the local economy.

As part of the FERC licensing process, the PUD would develop a series of protection, mitigation and enhancement measures. Initial comments from the community members in the project area have suggested measures related to road improvements, project aesthetics, and easing of flood-related issues. In addition, the PUD proposes improvements and funding for the fish trap-and-haul facility, which allows additional fish spawning habitat in the Skykomish River. These and other measures would be considered as the PUD works with the stakeholders to assess a potential project.


Dawn Presler
(M-F, 8am to 5pm)