Enloe Dam (Okanogan County) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 18, 1978.

  • By Jeff Creighton
  • Posted 11/29/2022
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 22598

On October 18, 1978, Enloe Dam in Okanogan County is added to the National Register of Historic Places. Completed in 1922, the dam is a former hydroelectric power facility on the Similkameen River, built by the D. J. Broderick Company for owner Eugene Enloe. Located a few miles downstream from the Canadian border and about four miles from Oroville, the dam had produced power from 1922 until 1958, when other sources of power became less costly and Enloe's powerhouse was shuttered. Enloe Dam will still be standing more than 60 years later, along with remnants of the powerhouse and the surge tanks. 

Enloe's Empire

Illinois-born Eugene Enloe (1859-1945) was one of the many entrepreneurs who sought to harness power from the rivers of Eastern Washington. Enloe incorporated the Okanogan Valley Power Company in June 1913, secured the hydroelectric rights to the Similkameen River in 2016, and by 1922 was well on his way to amassing a fortune in power development. His namesake dam was built on the Similkameen at the site of a waterfall referred to by Native Americans as the Rock Wall and known to non-Natives as Squantl Falls. Completed in 1922, the dam is a gravity arch structure that required more than 9,700 cubic feet of concrete to build. The spillway section rises about 54 feet from the riverbed to the crest of the dam. The base width exceeds 40 feet, and the dam is nearly 6 feet thick at the top. Gears with raising and lowering wheels controlled water flow from the spillway to the two original wood stave penstocks, which ran more than 700 feet to twin surge tanks adjacent to the powerhouse.  

The powerhouse itself measures 84-by-40 feet, resting upon a poured concrete foundation, with a roof clad with corrugated metal sheets. Access to the Pelton turbines could be gained by the removable roof portion over the generator room. Though integrity has suffered over the decades, the Enloe complex today [2022] is still recognizable. Just one short portion remains of the two former penstocks, both surge tanks are intact, and the skeletal remnants of the powerhouse can still be explored, though some portions are covered with random graffiti. The powerhouse is owned by the Okanogan County Public Utilities District. 

A Nod to History

Enloe Dam was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In a 1974 essay accompanying the nomination, Rod Vissia of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation wrote: "The Enloe Dam structure is significant as an early source of energy in the Okanogan-Similkameen Valley area that contributed extensively to the socio-economic growth of the Okanogan Valley -- the incipient development of mining and the expansion of agriculture. Apples, which are the chief agricultural product today, are shipped to all areas of the United States and some are exported to foreign markets. Alfalfa and forage crops rank next to orchards in importance in the cropping patter, and this area has become one of Washington's leading producers of feeding cattle" (National Register nomination form). 

Enloe Dam and its powerhouse were officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 18, 1978, though such an honor does not automatically protect the structures from demolition. 

In 2016, the Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) released a solicitation seeking a party to take over ownership of the powerhouse. Qualified applicants were asked to "demonstrate capacity and capability to adapt and use the facility for recreational, historic, and/or community use" ("Enloe Dam Powerhouse"). At the same time, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation put the powerhouse on its list of the state's Most Endangered Places. "While the powerhouse is remote and in disrepair," the Trust wrote, "it does offer the opportunity to tap into tourism and recreational activities for which the Okanogan Valley is known, including fishing, hiking, wine tasting, and visitation to other historic sites nearby. The property poses an adaptive use challenge – to say the least – but the potential payoff for a creative solution is enormous" ("Enloe Dam Powerhouse"). 

The future of the dam itself is very much in doubt. In July 2022, the PUD's board passed a resolution supporting a process to evaluate the potential for removing it. Representatives of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have long advocated for taking down the dam to create viable fish habitats above Squantl Falls. No one has come up with a realistic plan to pay for such a project. In 2016, dam-removal advocates estimated it would cost $35 million to take out the dam. 


Sources:

"An Important Improvement," Oroville Weekly Gazette, April 25, 1919, p. 1; "An Important Transfer," Oroville Weekly Gazette, April 14 1916, p. 1; "Considerations for Acquiring, Owning, and Managing the Existing Enloe Powerhouse," Enloe Dam Hydroelectric Project, FERC Project No. 12569, 2016; Craig Holstine and John Eminger, "Historic American Engineering Record (HAER): Enloe Dam and Powerhouse," HAER No. WA-6, 1990, Archaeological and Historical Services, Cheney; Kimberly V. Demuth, "Final Historic Properties Management Plan: Enloe Dam Project Licensing, FERC Project No. 12569," 2014, Cardno Entrix, Seattle; "Enloe Dam," Northwest Public Power Association Magazine (NWPPA), August 2021; "Enloe Dam History," Okanogan County Heritage, 2007, Winter, Vol. 46, No. 1, Okanogan Historical Society, Okanogan; Ann C. Briley, "Enloe Dam, One Small Chapter in Big Success Story,” Wenatchee World, October 2, 1983 p. 14; Rod Vissia, "Enloe Dam and Powerhouse National Register of Historic Places Nomination," Keeper of the Register, National Park Service, 1974, accessed November 25, 2022 (c11279ee-9311-412b-b1c2-2699e06417d2 (nps.gov); "Most Endangered Places," Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, 2016, accessed November 22, 2022 (https://preservewa.org/programs/most-endangered-places/); Marcy Stamper, "PUD Looking to Make a Powerhouse Deal at Enloe Dam," Methow Valley News, February 18, 2016, accessed November 22, 2022 (https://methowvalleynews.com/2016/02/18/pud-looking-to-make-a-powerhouse-deal-at-enloe-dam/).


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