College of the Environment Graduate and Undergraduate Publications

Date Permissions Signed


College Affiliation

Huxley College of the Environment

Date of Award

Winter 2011

Document Type

Environmental Impact Assessment

Department or Program Affiliation

Department of Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Bodensteiner, Leo R.,1957-


The ensuing document presents the potential environmental impacts from a proposal submitted by the Free Flow Power Corporation of Massachusetts to the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission for the development of a small-scale hydroelectric project on Ruth Creek, WA. Upon evaluating the existing conditions and likely effects of the proposed actions, we present an alternative solution of comparable cost and power generation, an enhancement of the earth-fill dam already in place on Cle Elum Reservoir, near of Roslyn, WA. Located in Whatcom County within Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Ruth Creek tributary meanders from alpine settings at its glacial headwaters to the North Fork Nooksack River, a distance less than 10 miles from Ruth Glacier. The 93 acre proposal stipulates the placement of a 100ft long, run-of-the-river, ogee mid-stream weir to partially divert flow to an impounded pond where an intake structure would reside, equipped with a trash rack, fish screen and closure gate. The impounded pond is expected to be relatively small, having a surface area of 0.10 acres and volume of 0.4 acre-feet. Upon entering the intake, water will travel down a ~8000ft long, 42" diameter steel penstock with both above and below ground sections. The water then reaches the powerhouse complex where it spins turbines before returning to the creek via a 20ft long, 6x6ft concrete culvert followed by a 20ft long, 12ft wide lined rip rap tailrace that will blend with the creek bank. The resultant power generation capacity is expected to be 2.5MW, with an estimated average annual energy production of 10GWh. The power generated will travel across the proposed 55kVA transmission lines, which are expected to be ~2.2 miles long and will connect to the local utility grid. Approximately 500ft of new access roads will need to be constructed to connect both the powerhouse complex and intake/weir structures to NF Develop Road 32. Environmental concerns based on both the location and lack of development in the surrounding area are discussed further in the body of this document. Based on the expressed purpose of the aforementioned proposal to generate electricity, we also present an alternative to acquiring the power output desired from the Ruth Creek proposal, The Cle Elum Hydroelectric Project. Also applied for by Free Flow Power, this proposal is located in a starkly different geographic landscape in Kittitas County, just north of Interstate 90, WA. The Cle Elum Reservoir is held in place by a 165ft tall earth-fill dam, owned and operated by the US Bureau of Reclamation since 1933 to mitigate flood events, provide irrigation to local farms and pastures, offer recreational activities, and serve fish and wildlife purposes. The alternative proposal suggests enhancing the existing dam to also produce hydroelectric power. This venture would be accomplished by constructing a spillway, ~1,000ft long penstock, 7,000sqft powerhouse and a 15MVa substation. The project encompasses less than 6 acres of land and is expected to generate 18.0MW of power. Concerning environmental impacts from this proposal are discussed further in the body of this document and surmised in the conclusion. The intent and purpose of this impact assessment is to evaluate the severity and scope of potentially adverse effects on the environment due to the proposed construction. These elements were thoroughly examined in an objective manner to ensure fair assessment of both the proposed action and suggested alternative under the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The sections presented hereafter describe in detail the elements of the environment that pertain to small-scale hydroelectric projects, the light & glare and housing elements were omitted due to their irrelevance to these proposals. After interpreting our results and quantifying likely impacts, we conclude that the alternative presented would likely produce fewer and less severe adverse effects on the surrounding environment than the proposed action, the proposed alternative is, therefore, our recommendation.




Hydroelectric power plants--Environmental aspects--Washington (State)--Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Hydroelectric power plants--Environmental aspects--Washington (State)--Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; Environmental impact analysis--Washington (State)--Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Geographic Coverage

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Wash.)




environmental impact statements




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