FERC staff recommend not licensing a new dam project


In a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued by FERC staff for a proposed new hydropower dam on the Bear River in Idaho, the staff recommend the Commission to not issue a license for the project.

The Twin Lakes Canal company had proposed to build a 109-foot-tall dam on the Bear River which, just a few years ago, had seen the Cove dam removed as part of a broader hydroelectric settlement. The FERC staff, in their environmental analysis, determined that even the mitigation measures proposed by the power company “would not adequately offset the adverse effects of constructing and operating a new major hydroelectric project on a currently scenic river reach in an undeveloped canyon with remarkable recreational, geological, and wildlife values and public access. The EIS states that the project would cause the following unavoidable adverse effects:

·         loss of a 4.5-mile section of the Bear River with outstandingly remarkable recreational values

·         substantial reduction in the size of the cutthroat trout fishery

·         permanent loss of 4.5 miles of mainstem Bear River fluvial BCT habitat

·         substantial reduction in the diversity or population of up to 48 state-designated sensitive wildlife species because of the permanent loss of about 425 acres of wildlife habitat along the Bear River riparian corridor

·         permanent loss of 249 acres of designated PacifiCorp-owned conservation land that is a critical component of the Bear River Project licensing settlement agreement,65 202 acres of which are within the existing Bear River Project’s project boundary

·         permanent loss of 55 acres of designated Research Natural Area/Area of Critical Environmental Concern land managed by BLM and designed to protect sensitive plants and wildlife

·         degradation of aesthetics via the conversion of the scenic Oneida Narrows into a hydroelectric project with a large dam, powerhouse, transmission facilities, and roads.

The recommendation by staff to not license the project is the second major blow the project has received after the Idaho Department of Water Resources in 2012 denied a water right that would be needed to construct the new dam. Coalition members including Idaho Rivers United and American Whitewater had been constantly opposing the ill-conceived project since its inception.