FERC denies a license for a new hydropower dam


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission provided a victory today for the pristine Bear River, fisheries, recreation and the local community by denying a federal license for a proposed new hydropower dam in Idaho.

Through an order issued yesterday, FERC denied the application by Twin Lakes Canal Company to build a new hydropower dam at the Bear River narrows, a scenic canyon east of Preston, ID and an area popular with anglers and paddlers. The 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.

An environmental assessment by FERC staff had found 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.

In making their decision, FERC Commissioners state,” … after weighing the potential power, irrigation, and other benefits of the proposed project against its unmitigable impacts on fish, wildlife, aesthetics, and recreation, we conclude that the project would not be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing the Bear River for beneficial public uses.“

Many Coalition members led by Idaho Rivers United had been fighting this new dam proposal for 14 years.

“Today’s action by ends a nearly 14-year fight to protect a unique and beautiful river canyon,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “For generations local citizens have hunted, hiked, camped, fished and floated along this section of the Bear River. Now, future generations will be afforded the same opportunities.”