Posted March 21, 2009

Sullivan Lake

Sullivan Lake (1,240 acres) sits on the east slope of the Selkirk Mountains and is fed by incoming waters of Noisy and Harvey Creeks. It’s been a lake for a long time but its elevation was raised by placement of a small dam at Outlet Creek in 1931.  Another much smaller impoundment, Mill Pond (80.5 acres), was created downstream at that time by placement of another small dam – Millpond Dam.  A wooden flume 12,500 ft. long and leading from Mill Pond to the Metaline Falls powerhouse was part of the project.

The Sullivan Dam Project produced electricity for the town of Metaline Falls until 1956 when other sources became available and cheaper. Sullivan Lake stores and releases around 31,000 acre-feet annually and is an important fishing recreation site in Northestern Washington. Mill Pond supports a smaller fishing and camping experience. Sullivan Creek, which flows from Mill Pond Dam eventually makes it way to the Pend Oreille River/Reservoir immediately at the Metaline Falls bridge.  Sullivan Creek is the largest creek flowing into Boundary Reservoir and is considered by fisheries biologists as the #1 stream for reintroduction of endangered bull trout that no longer spawn within any of the streams flowing into the reservoir.

The various structures described above are owned by the Pend Oreille Public Utilities District (PUD) which has, at times, considered renewing the power generating capabilities of the project. More recently, the PUD has decided to give up on power-making at this site and find ways to minimize its financial responsibilities for the dams, etc.  Because the project was and is licensed by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC), the PUD must “surrender” its license through a regulated process overseen and ultimately approved by FERC.

In order to accomplish this effectively and to minimize the probability of legal objections and lawsuits, the PUD joined forces with the Colville National Forest (which manages the public lands upon which the Project sits) to establish a collaborative process that would include appropriate parties, including conservation organizations and the general public.  The Selkirk Conservation Alliance is a member of the negotiation team along with The Lands Council of Spokane, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Dept. of Ecology, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, American Whitewater, Seattle City Light, Pend Oreille County and several participating residents of that county.

This group of people and organizations is considering all sorts of possible future scenarios in terms of dam retention, dam release patterns, stream flow patterns, stream restoration, possible fish passage, future fishing potential, etc., etc.  Information generated by the negotiation team is shared with the public through press releases and public meetings. Meeting schedules and a lot other of information are available at the Sullivan Surrender process website.

Photo credits:
Sullivan Lake – Larry Sheckler, Washington State Tourism