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No Hydropower At Sunset Falls: Controversial Skykomish River Project Canceled

A hydroelectric project that threatened to diminish scenic waterfalls on the South Fork of the Skykomish River near Index will not be built.

"We are not filing the final license application," confirmed Snohomish County PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos.

Controversy had swirled around the Sunset Falls hydro project since it was first proposed by the PUD seven years ago.

Signs with the slogan “No Dam Way” went up around the area in Index as locals banded together to oppose it. And the environmental group American Rivers listed the South Fork of the Skykomish as one of the nation’s most endangered rivers in 2012 and 2017.

Now the group says the Skykomish is “saved.”

Snohomish County PUD had already scaled back its proposal, canceling plans for an inflatable weir and instead proposing to reroute the river through a mile-long tunnel to a powerhouse and turbines, which the utility said still would have produced enough power for about 10,000 homes.

But it now says it can achieve that same output through energy conservation over the next 10 to 12 years, saving ratepayers an estimated $170 million in construction costs.   

Sunset Falls is a popular hiking destination, which many groups feared would be diminished by the diversion of as much as 90 percent of the river’s flow during autumn and winter months.

The South Fork Skykomish has been considered for designation as a Wild and Scenic River by the U.S. Forest Service due to its exceptional scenic, recreational, fish and wildlife values.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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