Lake Chelan project: The Little Hydro that can

WENATCHEE – Once again the Lake Chelan Hydro Project has earned recognition for sustainable operations from the Low Impact Hydropower Institute.

The designation takes into account all of the environmental work done at the 59-megawatt project at the base of Lake Chelan. That includes restoring year-round flow in the Chelan River after 80 years and creating an award-winning habitat that attracts healthy numbers of salmon and steelhead, and offers paddling and fishing for people.

“All of our environmental work at the Chelan project contributed to our successful application,” Suzanne Grassell, government affairs program manager, told Chelan PUD commissioners Monday.

 The Lake Chelan project first earned Low Impact Certification in 2007. Grassell said the recertification, good through September 2022, was “a much more rigorous application process.” The institute upgraded its criteria in 2014.

 There was more good news. The state now recognizes efficiency gains from turbine upgrades as renewable energy under state I-937 requirements.   

A key factor in earning Low Impact Certification was the increasing numbers of steelhead and spring Chinook returning to spawn and rear in the habitat near where the Chelan River joins the Columbia. 

So was restoring year-round water flow in the Chelan River as part of the project’s a new federal license in 2006, she said.

 The National Hydropower Association honored the habitat with an Outstanding Stewards of American Waters award in 2010.

 “This certification from a respected third party highlights how we can generate carbon-free power and protect fish at the same time,” Grassell said.

 Commissioners were delighted with the news. “The Chelan River Project is a real showcase,” added Commission President Garry Arseneault.

In other business, commissioners:
Approved purchase of 2.12 acres of property next to the site of the PUD’s new Service and Operations Center in Olds Station. The Nevio and Elizabeth Tontini Living Trust agreed to sell the land for $854,211. Shared Services Director Dan Frazier said potential uses for the property include access to the Wenatchee River and Apple Capital Loop Trail.

Upcoming events:
· Aug. 5 - Commission meeting, 10 a.m. PUD boardroom, at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
· Aug. 6 – National Night Out, 6 p.m., Eastmont Community Park
· Aug. 19 - Commission meeting, 10 a.m. PUD boardroom
· Sept. 2 – Labor Day holiday
· Sept. 3 - Commission meeting, 10 a.m. PUD boardroom (Tuesday due to the  Labor Day holiday)

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