the film
Commentaries and editorials

Company Opposes Fisheries Service Attempt
to Grab Idaho Water

Press Release
Idaho Power, June 7, 2001

(Idaho Statesman Photo) Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River would see increased flows this summer under a National Marine Fisheries Service request for Idaho Power to release a third of the water in Brownlee Reservoir to aid salmon traveling downstream. BOISE — Idaho Power will oppose an attempt by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to take Idaho’s water to solve fish migration problems caused by the federal government’s dams downstream, according to a company official.

The federal fishery agency has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reopen Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon hydroelectric complex’s license and order the utility to release at least one-third of Brownlee Reservoir’s water before the end of July.

“This is a blatant attempt to open our Hells Canyon operating license to get Idaho’s water now, and then make the grab permanent when the dams are relicensed in four years,” said Idaho Power Vice President of Generation John Prescott. “NMFS wants to boost our customers’ rates by taking control of the Hells Canyon project and running it for fish without regard for the energy needs of Idaho. Rather than take meaningful actions to improve fish passage at the four federal dams on the lower Snake, they want to take Idaho water to support flow-based solutions that have, at best, questionable value.” The company is preparing formal comments to FERC protesting the NMFS request.

“The impact on our customers rates could be substantial, especially this year when drought conditions have already seriously hampered our energy production capability and the electric markets in the West have proven to be highly volatile,” said Prescott. He explained that the 350,000 acre-feet eyed by NMFS is critical to meeting customers’ energy needs this summer as well as for supplying minimum flows during the fall and winter to protect fall Chinook salmon.

Prescott said Idaho Power does not believe FERC can legally reopen the Hells Canyon license. All federal and state fishery agencies, including NMFS, signed a settlement agreement in 1980 spelling out what Idaho Power must do to alleviate the impact of its three-dam Hells Canyon hydroelectric complex on salmon and steelhead for the term of the license which expires in four years. The utility’s customers have been paying millions of dollars annually for the company’s mitigation efforts.

“Now NMFS wants our customers to also pay for the impact the four lower Snake federal dams have had on migrating fish, without clear evidence that Idaho’s water would even help their situation,” said Prescott. “We think the federal government should fix its own problems and quit trying to raid Idaho’s water.”

Idaho Power’s 1,167-megawatt Hells Canyon project operates under a federal license granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The three-dam facility forms the backbone of the company’s 17-dam hydroelectric system distributed along the Snake River and its tributaries. The hydro system and the company’s partnership in three low-cost coal-fired power plants comprise the foundation of Idaho Power’s ability to offer customers some of the lowest rates in the nation.

Idaho Power is preparing its application to renew its federal operating license for the Hells Canyon project, which expires in mid-2005.

All-electric utility Idaho Power is a subsidiary of Boise-based IDACORP (NYSE: IDA). At the end of 2000, the utility served more than 384,000 customers in southern Idaho, eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. This includes 319,956 residential customers; 49,752 commercial and industrial customers; and 14, 713 irrigation customers. The company owns and operates 17 hydroelectric projects on the Snake River and its tributaries and is part owner of three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming, Nevada and Oregon. It’s transmission and distribution network includes nearly 23,000 miles of power lines.

Related Links:
Idaho Power Joins the Breaching Discussion Idaho Statesman, 6/8/01
American Rivers
Idaho Power Co.
NW Council

Press Release
Company Opposes Fisheries Service Attempt To Grab Idaho Water
Idaho Power, June 7, 2001

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation