The Enloe Dam just south of Osoyoos, across the U.S. border, hasn’t produced electricity since 1958 and provides no benefits for irrigation or flood control. All it really does is block fish from reaching more than 500 kilometres of high-quality, cold-water habitat upstream in the Similkameen River.
Efforts to remove the dam have underway for years, but are once again gaining traction thanks to recent support from BC’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
In a letter obtained by the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. from Minister George Heyman to Washington State decision-makers, the minister expressed his support for the decommissioning process of the Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River near Oroville, Washington.
Efforts are now underway in Washington, in consultation with Indigenous governments to determine the feasibility and costs of removing the Enloe Dam.
Removing the dam would help restore the river’s natural ecosystem, while also providing vital fish passage and new habitat for declining salmon and steelhead populations in the Similkameen River and its tributaries.
The Similkameen River starts east of Manning Provincial Park and flows freely past Princeton, Hedley, Keremeos and Cawston before crossing into the U.S.
Near Oroville, the river reaches the Enloe Dam, an 18-meter concrete wall.
The dam was constructed in 1920 but was never equipped with fish ladders to enable salmon migration. The dam subsequently eliminated salmon and steelhead runs from the Similkameen River and its tributaries in the U.S., and especially in B.C.
The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORC) and its River Chair, Mark Angelo, have long been advocates for removing old dams that have outlived their usefulness but continue to have adverse environmental and recreational impacts.
“Removing the Enloe Dam would be a great opportunity for both governments to work together to help restore the Similkameen River’s natural ecosystem and we applaud the Province and Minister Heyman for their support of the dam decommissioning process,” said Angelo in a press release.
“Removing this obsolete dam would be a great step forward in restoring the Similkameen River and would be very beneficial to both Canada and the United States.”
The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC had previously encouraged the B.C. government to have direct dialogue with the state of Washington and the U.S. government regarding the importance of removing the dam and restoring the river’s natural flow.
The Outdoor Recreation Council said they are encouraged by Minister Heyman’s letter, which confirms that there is significant interest and support in B.C. for the removal of the obsolete Enloe Dam.