The defunct 100-year-old Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River in Washington blocks access by salmon and steelhead to over 500 kilometres of high-quality river habitat, much of it in British Columbia. Photo submitted by Alex Maier.

The defunct 100-year-old Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River in Washington blocks access by salmon and steelhead to over 500 kilometres of high-quality river habitat, much of it in British Columbia. Photo submitted by Alex Maier.

B.C. outdoor group calls for removal of U.S. dam

Defunct obstruction on Similkameen River cuts off 500 km of Canadian salmon habitat

A B.C. outdoor group is hoping some cross-border diplomacy will lead to the dismantling of a defunct dam in Washington State that’s blocked salmon runs into Canada for the past century.

The Enole Dam is concrete wall, 18-metre tall, 88-metres wide, constructed around 1920 near Oroville, WA, about 11 km south of Osoyoos. Designed without fish ladders to enable fish migration, it eliminated salmon and steelhead runs from the Similkameen River and its tributaries flowing from B.C. through Manning Provincial Park and past the communities of Princeton, Hedley, Keremeos and Cawston.

READ MORE: B.C. voters prioritize environment in upcoming election: survey

The Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia (ORC) says the dam hasn’t produced electricity since 1954 and now wants the B.C. government to open a dialogue with their U.S. counterparts on the importance of removing the obstruction for good.

“Given the pressures confronting salmon and the deteriorating state of many runs throughout the Pacific Northwest, removing this dam creates a significant opportunity to help reverse that trend. Few other single actions could generate this much benefit for salmon,” Mark Angelo, river chair for ORC said.

Restoring the river’s natural flow would open up more than 500 kilometres of salmon habitat in B.C. and Washington.

READ MORE: Salmon tracking tool expanded to southern B.C.

The group says chinook salmon continue to be spotted jumping at the face of the dam, a promising sign for advocates of habitat restoration.

According to ORC, re-energizing the dam’s power plant would carry a price tag of $114 million, producing power 10 times more costly than what’s generated from other sites on the Columbia River.

Both ORC and Angelo have been involved in many successful dam removal efforts. Most recently, Angelo collaborated with the province in its successful efforts to remove seven non-operating dams in the Britannia Creek watershed.

“Dams were never meant to last forever, and over time, they can outlive their usefulness and become susceptible to sediment infilling and concrete deterioration,” Angelo said. “Many dilapidated dam structures can also eventually become threats to public safety. The removal of the Enloe Dam is a major untapped opportunity for improving salmon habitat in BC’s southern interior.”



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