PSE should expand mitigation for historic structures

Record Editorial

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 2:39am
  • Opinion

I read last week’s story of changes at Snoqualmie Falls with a keen interest on what would happen to the historic structures. I saw the pictures and renderings and realized that other than keeping four old generators operational in the cavity, the rest of what was once an engineering marvel would be relegated to the scrap heap. Most who know me also know I am a huge fan of saving historical anything. Our past is a reflection of who we are.

The power plant at Snoqualmie Falls was a marvel of engineering when first built in 1898. In fact, it was highlighted in a 1902 Scientific American article, the premier engineering publication of the time.

A quote from that article states, “Art has here supplemented natural forces and the result has yet to be surpassed.” This is an illustration of the importance of the project and the future impact it would have on the Seattle area.

The power plant was also used as a test for Seattle and Tacoma to determine if electricity could be transmitted long distances. Prior to that, it had only been transmitted short distances. This test alone was a primary factor in the increase in investment in hydroelectric power.

The powerplant is currently listed as a National Civil Engineering Historic Landmark and any activity with regards to the property will need federal approval. The re-licensing efforts of Puget Sound Energy have created several mitigation measures, which include aesthetics, historic value, etc.

Removal of several buildings at the site seems the right thing to do given their current state of disrepair and damage from the Nisqually earthquake. But their demise doesn’t diminish the historical significance placed on the site and buildings.

Keeping the four original generators in operation is one step in the right direction toward historical mitigation, but what about the buildings?

I have a suggestion. Recently, the King County Historical Preservation group developed a plan to stabilize the power plant at the former Weyerhaeuser mill site. This power plant was identified as significant by the Washington Trust for historic preservation.

I think that this is a great opportunity to preserve the historic pieces from the Falls power plant and move them to a renovated lumber mill powerplant building. Maybe PSE should be on the hook to pay for a portion of the stabilization of the building and hold historical relics in storage until the building can be renovated.

Big corporations, including PSE and Weyerhaeuser, have played important roles in shaping our community in their various forms. I think that history is worth preserving.

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