Washington State looking to build new dam in Canada...or maybe not?

A strange article in the Castlegar News from southern British Columbia proclaims that "Cash-strapped Washington State seeks funding to build new dam in British Columbia":

Yesterday Sierra Club sent a letter to Gov. Inslee and Department Director Maia Bellon opposing Washington State funding a new dam in Canada. The state's Office of Columbia River (OCR), the dam-building arm of the Department of Ecology, has proposed allocating $1.6 million to a private utility to study building a new dam on the Similkameen River in British Columbia. The Washington Legislature recently convened, and will vote on funding requests for the Office of Columbia River.

'Our cash-strapped state government is wasting millions of tax dollars on new dams and other water projects, this time in British Columbia,' said John Osborn, a Spokane physician who coordinates the Sierra Club's Columbia River Future Project. 'Office of Columbia River operates as a political-rewards slush fund for irrigated agriculture. The Legislature convening this week needs to account for these public funds.'

In 2013, Fortis BC, (a subsidiary of Fortis Inc. based in St. John's, Nfld.) applied for permits to conduct studies on the Crown land required for the reservoir (12 miles long) and the dam site for a 541-foot-high concrete dam in the Similkameen Canyon, 9 miles upstream from Princeton, with a generation capacity of 45-65 megawatts. To pay for the project, Fortis approached downstream parties in the United States with interests in hydropower and irrigation.

Soon after the article was published by the newspaper, the Washington State Department of Ecology Facebook account posted comments on the article denying the claims made therein.

Bob Peart, Sierra Club BC's executive director, was quoted in the story as claiming that "a new dam on the Similkameen will provide bulk water for American water users."  This seems like a odd concern, given how the river flows into the United States anyway and joins the Columbia River system.  The bulk water export alarmism doesn't rationally apply if (1) the water was already on its way into the U.S. as part of a natural flow regime, and (2) the proposed activity would only alter the timing of the flow transfers.

The Sierra Club's Osborn also raises concerns over climate change and water scarcity in the region: "'The water frontier is over,' added Osborn. 'Given the over-appropriation of our rivers and aquifers, climate change, and limits to public funding, the elected officials need to insist on affordable, ethical, and sustainable solutions to water scarcity.'"

According to the long-term hydrometric data for the Similkameen River dating back to 1929, there are no substantial water scarcity/climate change concerns.  There is not a single month with a significant decline in mean monthly flows since records began.  Actually, the only significant trend is one toward more flow in January, and the remainder of the correlations are all either positive toward more flow or near-perfect non-correlations.  The annual flow has a correlation toward more flow, not less.  Since 1970, and during the past three decades, the correlation in the annual minimum flow has been positive – toward higher minimum flows – not lower, and there are no significant trends in the annual maximum flow.

Some clarity from all sides would be useful surrounding this issue, but as it stands now, Washington State appears to be denying that it is looking to build a new dam in Canada, and climate change is not  leading to water scarcity in the Similkameen River.

A strange article in the Castlegar News from southern British Columbia proclaims that "Cash-strapped Washington State seeks funding to build new dam in British Columbia":

Yesterday Sierra Club sent a letter to Gov. Inslee and Department Director Maia Bellon opposing Washington State funding a new dam in Canada. The state's Office of Columbia River (OCR), the dam-building arm of the Department of Ecology, has proposed allocating $1.6 million to a private utility to study building a new dam on the Similkameen River in British Columbia. The Washington Legislature recently convened, and will vote on funding requests for the Office of Columbia River.

'Our cash-strapped state government is wasting millions of tax dollars on new dams and other water projects, this time in British Columbia,' said John Osborn, a Spokane physician who coordinates the Sierra Club's Columbia River Future Project. 'Office of Columbia River operates as a political-rewards slush fund for irrigated agriculture. The Legislature convening this week needs to account for these public funds.'

In 2013, Fortis BC, (a subsidiary of Fortis Inc. based in St. John's, Nfld.) applied for permits to conduct studies on the Crown land required for the reservoir (12 miles long) and the dam site for a 541-foot-high concrete dam in the Similkameen Canyon, 9 miles upstream from Princeton, with a generation capacity of 45-65 megawatts. To pay for the project, Fortis approached downstream parties in the United States with interests in hydropower and irrigation.

Soon after the article was published by the newspaper, the Washington State Department of Ecology Facebook account posted comments on the article denying the claims made therein.

Bob Peart, Sierra Club BC's executive director, was quoted in the story as claiming that "a new dam on the Similkameen will provide bulk water for American water users."  This seems like a odd concern, given how the river flows into the United States anyway and joins the Columbia River system.  The bulk water export alarmism doesn't rationally apply if (1) the water was already on its way into the U.S. as part of a natural flow regime, and (2) the proposed activity would only alter the timing of the flow transfers.

The Sierra Club's Osborn also raises concerns over climate change and water scarcity in the region: "'The water frontier is over,' added Osborn. 'Given the over-appropriation of our rivers and aquifers, climate change, and limits to public funding, the elected officials need to insist on affordable, ethical, and sustainable solutions to water scarcity.'"

According to the long-term hydrometric data for the Similkameen River dating back to 1929, there are no substantial water scarcity/climate change concerns.  There is not a single month with a significant decline in mean monthly flows since records began.  Actually, the only significant trend is one toward more flow in January, and the remainder of the correlations are all either positive toward more flow or near-perfect non-correlations.  The annual flow has a correlation toward more flow, not less.  Since 1970, and during the past three decades, the correlation in the annual minimum flow has been positive – toward higher minimum flows – not lower, and there are no significant trends in the annual maximum flow.

Some clarity from all sides would be useful surrounding this issue, but as it stands now, Washington State appears to be denying that it is looking to build a new dam in Canada, and climate change is not  leading to water scarcity in the Similkameen River.