Tag Archives: Cushman Dam Project

Restoration continues in Skokomish River watershed

I’ve had to face the fact that environmental news continues even when I’m on vacation. I’ve managed to limit my time on the computer, to the delight of my wife, but I’d like to touch on a couple of issues now and catch up with others later.

A little more than a week ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a new license for the Cushman Dam Project in the southern part of Hood Canal. This landmark approval has closed the book on a story I have followed my entire career, and news of the license decision was one of the last stories I wrote before I left for vacation. See Kitsap Sun, July 16.

I’m told the license terms are essentially the same as those in the hard-fought agreement approved by the city of Tacoma, the Skokomish Tribe and natural resource agencies for the state and federal governments. As I’ve reported before, the agreement requires the city of Tacoma to fund some major environmental restoration projects and provide cash the tribe can use for various projects.

On Jan. 13, 2009, in Water Ways, I spent some time going through this agreement section by section. I refer you to that entry for a better understanding of what this landmark agreement will mean to everyone involved.

A story I missed as a result of being on vacation this week was the helicopter transport of some giant trees to the Skokomish River, where the trees will be used to build engineered “log jams” to improve habitat. John Dodge covered the story for The Olympian, and the Kitsap Sun picked it up from the Associated Press.

I had a few more details about this project when I reported on the announcement in February. See the Kitsap Sun, Feb. 26.

Skokomish issues will get attention this week and next

The Skokomish River is the largest river in Hood Canal and vitally important to the canal’s health. It’s also the most flooded river in the state and home to the Skokomish Tribe. At the moment, there’s a lot of activity taking place with regard to ecosystem restoration.

The Skokomish River is the focus of a reporting project that has been consuming my time lately. Planned as a four-part series, the stories will examine natural values plus the history and future of the Skokomish watershed. The project is scheduled to begin on Sunday and run through Wednesday.

I’d like to apologize for the lack of postings on “Water Ways” last week. As deadlines approached on this project, I seemed to put everything else aside. Now, you’re likely to see a flurry of posts as I catch up on things I’ve been wanting to talk about.

As for the Skokomish, a public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday in the Skokomish Valley. For details, check my story in Saturday’s Kitsap Sun, which mentions several issues up for discussion: the General Investigation of the river’s functions, a new plan to anchor trees into the banks of the South Fork of the Skokomish, ongoing decommissioning of roads in Olympic National Forest, a study of the functions of Vance Creek and dike removals on the Skokomish delta.

Not listed on the agenda is a discussion about the recent agreement between the Skokomish Tribe and city of Tacoma over the Cushman Dam project. I’d be surprised, however, if this didn’t come up in some fashion. (See my personal observations and details of the agreement in my Jan. 13 blog entry.)

The majority of the real action at the moment involves removing culverts and decommissioning roads on Forest Service lands. I wrote a story about some of these projects for the Kitsap Sun last August.

As an aside, I’m not sure I like the term “decommissioning” when it comes to roads, but I may be stuck with it. The project is usually more than “abandoning” a road, but less than “removal.” Anybody got a better term for it?

Can the Cushman Dam dispute really be over?

It is rather mind-boggling to think that the city of Tacoma and the Skokomish Tribe have worked out their long-standing disagreements over the Cushman Dam Project. Yesterday, the parties signed a settlement agreement, as I explained in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

I have covered the Cushman battles for the Sun since I first arrived at the paper in 1977, nearly 32 years ago. While some stories never seem to end, I can’t think of any legal dispute that has taken half this long to be resolved — even those that I’ve followed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A story I wrote for the Sept. 27, 1999, edition started this way:

The future of Cushman Hydroelectric Project in southern Hood Canal remains tied up in court — and it’s a good bet that even King Solomon couldn’t settle this dispute.

Nobody is happy with the requirements of a new operating license issued last year by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Both the city of Tacoma, which owns the facility, and the Skokomish Tribe, which resides downstream, are suing to have the terms of the license changed.

And numerous state and federal agencies have become tangled in the controversy as they try to comply with provisions of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Now salmon — particularly those protected by federal law — are moving to the center of the relicensing battle, which has gone on for more than 25 years.

So, what are the details of this settlement — which is actually a series of documents signed by the city and tribe as well as state and federal agencies? You may wish to download the 260-page compiled settlement (PDF 5.6 mb), which I obtained yesterday, or read on for my expanded “summary” of the various documents.
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