River Group Protests Potential Dewatering of Snake Riverby Associated Press
Capital Press - April 26, 2002
BOISE (AP) -- An environmental group filed a formal protest with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission April 19 against a proposal by Idaho Power Co. to let the Snake River run dry below Milner Dam.
The filing cam during a 30-day comment period following Idaho Power's request to extend a temporary order that waived a minimum flow of 200 cubic feet per second in the Middle Snake River below the Milner Dam.
The commission granted Idaho Power's request last year as drought struck the entire West and energy prices soared. This year, prices have stabilized and snowpack levels are much closer to normal, thought is still dry in southeastern Idaho.
"The energy crisis is over," said Sara Eddie of Idaho Rivers United, the organization that is challenging Idaho Power's request. "It is outrageous that Idaho Power would try to avoid its responsibility to protect the resources that belong to the people of Idaho at a time when the company has more power than it needs."
Idaho Power spokesman Dennis Lopez said the company's request reflects the lower snowpack levels in Southern Idaho and the upper reaches of the Snake River.
"This is not an ideal hydro-generating year. We're still at about 79 percent of average snowpack," Lopez said. "We need to try to use the hydro system to its full advantage, and this is one way to optimize."
Idaho Rivers' formal protest carries more weight than ordinary comments, said commission spokeswoman Celeste Miller. Because the organization argues it has a legal standing in the issue, it has more avenues of recourse available to appeal if the commission decides in favor of Idaho Power's request.
Lopez said it is not uncommon for the river to run dry below Milner Dam, which provides irrigation for south-central Idaho irrigators.
On April 19, the flow at that location was less than one cubic foot per second. The mean average flow based on the past nine years is more than 2,400 cfs.
Idaho Power operates two power plants at Milner Dam, a small one-megawatt generator at the dam itself and a 15 megawatt generator at the end of a diversion canal.
Lopez said Idaho Power had expected an answer from the commission early this week. However, the commission has asked the company to provide additional information about its request. Lopez said the previous agreement ran out April 21.
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