A defunct hydroelectric dam in Pend Oreille County is scheduled for removal, which will eventually return Sullivan Creek to a more natural trout stream.
The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a permit to start the paperwork for the Mill Pond Dam’s removal. The dam was built in 1921 to produce power for the community of Metaline Falls, but it hasn’t produced electricity since the 1950s.
The actual removal is still about three to five years away, said Mark Cauchy, director of regulatory affairs for the Pend Oreille County Utility District, which owns the dam. Utility officials expect to spend two years finishing design plans for the Mill Pond Dam’s removal, and additional permit work is needed.
The 55-foot-high concrete dam is a barrier to fish passage, cutting off about 16 miles of upstream habitat for native westslope cutthroat and bull trout in Sullivan Creek, a tributary of the Pend Oreille River. Removing the dam also will restore natural wetlands and improve water quality.
“The outlook for fish in the stream will be much improved, and people will be able to enjoy the natural mountain stream the way it used to be,” said Sara Hunt, a manager for the Department of Ecology’s shore lands and environmental assistance program.