SULTAN, Wash. – A Washington state river is being placed on a national endangered list because of something that hasn’t even happened yet – and might never happen.
A national environmental group called American Rivers, which has monitored and ranked rivers for 25 years, is listing the south fork of the Skykomish River as the seventh-most endangered river in the country because a small hydroelectric dam could be built there.
The group said the plan to divert water to generate power threatens one of the state's last undammed rivers and the protected fish that use it. They also say it threatens unique features like Sunset Falls which is directly below the hydro site.
“The Skykomish is one of Washington’s most popular rivers for fishing, paddling, and scenic beauty. However, a proposed hydropower dam would destroy the wild character of the river’s South Fork, and reduce two spectacular waterfalls to a trickle,” writes American Rivers. “County officials should abandon this damaging project and focus on better energy alternatives to ensure those needs are balanced with the need for healthy rivers and a strong outdoor recreation economy.”
Snohomish Public Utilities is considering build the dam to provide power to its customers. But the utility says it’s only being studied now and no decision has been made of whether to build it.
The U.S. Forest Service has proposed the south fork of the Skykomish be listed on the National Wild and Scenic Rivers. If that happens, no development could take place.
More information: www.savetheskyriver.org
KING 5's Gary Chittim, Roberta Romero and Travis Pittman contributed to this report.