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Board delays 205 flood project appeal hearing

SNOQUALMIE - City officials closely watching an appeal hearing before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) that could negatively impact a flood-reduction project slated for the Snoqualmie River will have to wait until next month before they learn the latest in the ongoing series of legal wrangling.

A hearing before the PCHB regarding the appeal filed by the Snoqualmie Tribe has been delayed until Jan. 9.

Last month, the city of Snoqualmie authorized City Attorney Pat Anderson to monitor the case to ensure the 205 project, which would reduce flooding in Snoqualmie by blasting away banks of the Snoqualmie River and removing a decrepit train trestle, was not jeopardized because it was mentioned in the appeal. Anderson said he would argue that the water quality certification granted by the Department of Ecology (DOE) is separate from the 205 project and should be considered apart from it by the PCHB. Although the ramifications of a PCHB ruling against the DOE certification is unclear, Anderson said he's concerned that any ruling against the water quality certification could be used against the 205 project.

Since 1991 Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has been working to get a number of needed permits for its hydroelectric plant on the Snoqualmie River, currently in operation.

One of the permits needed is a water quality certification permit issued by the DOE. The Tribe appealed the water quality certification granted by the DOE, saying it violated a number of environmental and Native America religious freedom laws. PSE's efforts at the hydroelectric plant have been monitored by the Tribe because Snoqualmie Falls is a site sacred to the group.

Snoqualmie Tribal Administrator Matt Mattson said the Tribe also believes the 205 project is separate from the DOE certification. Although the Tribe appealed the 205 project last year, Mattson said it supports flood mitigation in the Valley and the Tribe is working on a revised version of the appeal that clears up any confusion over its support for the 205 project.

"If there is anything we could get across to the city, it's that we support flood mitigation," Mattson said. "That's why we settled [the 205 project]."

The Tribe, however, does have a problem with the hydroelectric plant. If the 205 project is considered part of the flood mitigation for the FERC requirements, Mattson said it is just one more approval toward getting the water quality certification.

"Our problem is really with the power company," Mattson said.

Lloyd Pernella, manager of hydro licensing for PSE, said PSE was ready to move forward with the certification when the Tribe's appeal came up. He said he is unclear what argument the Tribe is going to make against the DOE certification since the certification and the 205 project are regulated by two different federal bodies. The DOE certification falls under the Federal Power Act enforced by the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), and the 205 project falls under the Federal Flood Act enforced by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"They are separate projects being done under two separate federal mandates," he said.

Pernella said the parties in the appeal are working out how they will present their cases to the PCHB and only then will PSE see if the certification is really in jeopardy. He said PSE has a good working relationship with the Tribe and hopes things will become clearer next month when both sides are heard.

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