The Office of the Columbia River, out of Washington State, is showing signs of interest in Fortis Inc.’s proposed Similkameen dam.
Joye Redfield – Wilder, Communications Manager for Washington Department of Ecology in Yakima, Washington, said the Columbia River Policy Advisory group, which vets possible capital projects to enhance water supplies on the Columbia River system to the state legislature, recently listed the Fortis project as a possible water source for in and out of stream benefits.
The advisory group is proposing a feasibility study, at a cost estimated at 1.6 million dollars which would look at the possiblity of utilizing the dam to provide more water for new and exisiting water rights, as well as providing more water for instream flow south of the border.
Redfield – Wilder said the states of Washington and Oregon are interested in the potential for obtaining additional water from Canada for both instream and out of stream benefits from the Columbia River
“The state of Washington’s Office of Columbia River has been charged by the legislature to develop new water supplies for the Columbia Basin. The Fortis, B.C. project proposed on the Similkameen River in Canada provides an opportunity to join studies associated with the feasibility for a new dam and the potential of some 154,000 acre-feet of water for the United States,” Redfield -Wilder said in an email to the Review.
Derek Sandison,of the Washington State Department of Ecology, said, “It is one of the projects on our preliminary 2015-2017 capital budget project list. As is our usual practice, we present the preliminary project list to our Columbia River Policy Advisory Group about three months prior to development of our actual project list to allow that group time for review and comment. Once the list is finalized, it is then provided to our governor’s office for formal consideration. If the governor concurs with our proposed list, it is then forwarded to the state legislature for their consideration. Funding for projects on the list require appropriation by the state legislature.”
Sandison said the study proposal was brought to his organization by Fortis B.C.
“They said they were contemplating construction of a hydroelectric dam on an arm of a Columbia River tributary (Similkameen River) in British Columbia and were interested in developing a contract with us for scheduled releases of some of the water stored behind the dam. The timing of the releases would coincide with when water would be needed in Washington State for instream flow and various out-of-stream uses. The term of the contract would be 50 years. We indicated to Fortis B.C. that we could not commit to such a contract, nor request our state legislature to fund such a contract, without conducting a feasibility study of the proposal.”
If the state legislature approves the request and a feasibility study proves favourable, further negotiation would likely be necessary to determine the actual fees the two states would eventually pay for timed water releases.