Tacoma Power seeks $4.7 million in federal funding for new power source

If Tacoma Power receives $4.7 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, it plans to build a new generation facility at the Cushman Hydroelectric Project that would produce enough power for 1,700 homes.

The project qualifies to apply for funding from the Department of Energy’s Hydroelectric Facility Modernization grant, which aims to support hydropower projects that would modernize the existing hydropower infrastructure in the U.S. and increase both the quantity and value of hydropower generation, including environmental performance.

“Since March of 2008 we have been discharging significant amounts of water from the Cushman No. 2 dam into the North Fork of the Skokomish River,” said Pat McCarty, generation manager for Tacoma Power. “If we receive federal funding, we plan to build a powerhouse and use that water to generate clean, renewable energy. The powerhouse incorporates a fish passage system that would help restore steelhead and salmon runs in the river near our hydroelectric facility.”

Fish passage on the North Fork Skokomish River has been blocked since the construction of two Cushman dams in the 1920s. The addition of the powerhouse would enable installation of a unique fish collection and passage system that would allow adult fish swimming upstream to the base of the dam to be trapped and transported to the top of the dam, where they will be sorted, then hauled around the dams and released to the upper river.

The Skokomish Tribe, who signed a landmark settlement agreement with Tacoma Power in January, submitted a letter of support for the project, citing the power generation and fish benefits it would bring.

The total project cost is estimated at $23.6 million.