WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD will plant native vegetation in an area south of Rock Island in exchange for a $2,800 fine for three oil spills since July 2010.
The state Department of Ecology cited the utility for the spills, and announced a negotiated settlement on Wednesday, part of $47,000 issued in penalties across the state during the third quarter of this year.
The utility will plant native trees and shrubs on the Chelan County side of the Columbia River south of Rock Island, in an area known as the Appleyard, said PUD environmental coordinator Jennifer Burns. The half-acre site will be cleared of Japanese knotweed next year, and planted the following year with native trees and shrubs, she said.
The spills are a 23-gallon hydraulic oil spill from a fish weir into the Chiwawa River on July 29, 2010; a 31-gallon oil spill into the Columbia River from the Rock Island protect on Sept. 22, 2010; and a 23-gallon oil spill from the Rock Island Dam on Jan. 13, 2011.
Burns said it’s nearly impossible for the PUD to prevent all oil spills, because it has many mechanical workings above and under water. “We’re always working toward not having any spills occur, but there’s always something unanticipated,” she said. Due to the probability, the PUD uses a lightweight oil that dissipates quickly and is not toxic to fish in its projects in or near water, she said.
Ecology spokeswoman Joye Redfield-Wilder said all oil spills that reach water must be fined, but, as in many of its fines, the agency tries to reach a settlement that instead benefits the environment.
“This is a way to satisfy the penalty as well as make some gains environmentally,” she said.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512