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Spokane River

Customer e-mail: why spend money on “aesthetics” of river?   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Answering Questions, Spokane River, Infrastructure upgrades, Environment, Electricity, Rates

Testing on the Spokane River
Note the white sandbags, called weirs, lined up in the Spokane River. These temporary dams help divert
water during the aesthetic spill tests. They will be removed from the river once testing is complete.
Post by Dan Kolbet

We received this message to yesterday from a concerned customer. I thought this might be a question that other customers may be asking, so I’ve posted the full e-mail and our reply below.

I have seen the crews at work on the Aesthetic Spill Pilot Test in the River Front Park area. It appears the purpose of this pilot test is to assess the feasibility of diverting water that would normally flow through the south channel to the north channel. Do any practical benefits exist for this kind of diversion? Or, as the pilot study name suggests, are the benefits purely aesthetic?

If the no practical benefits exist, I object to the use of my utility rates for a purely aesthetic project which only benefits a small portion of the rate paying customers.

Please shed some light on the driving force for this project.

Dear Jesse, Thanks for your inquiry about the work being done on the Spokane River channels in Riverfront Park.

As you may know, we received a new operating license for our hydro facilities last year. With the new license came some new conditions that we are required to meet. Among those is an aesthetic spill in the north and middle channels of the river.

Currently the requirement is for a minimum 500 cfs to be diverted from the south channel. But there is a provision in the license that allows us to attempt to modify the riverbed so that we can make the flows just as appealing with only 300 cfs.

What we are doing is filling in the artificial cuts in the rock that were done in the early days of Spokane’s development. These were done to divert naturally low river flows to various mill wheels and laundries, etc. Those same cuts prevent the aesthetic affect that people want to see in the river.

Presently we have a group of stakeholders evaluating the modified river flows for the most effective configuration. Once that is established we can begin to make permanent modifications and hopefully divert less generating water from the powerhouse at Upper Falls.

I hope that addresses your concerns. Please let me know if you have further questions.

-Hugh Imhof, Avista Communications Manager
Posted by  System Account  on  8/27/2010
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