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Groups Hit Idaho Power Over Dam Licensing

by Ken Dey
Idaho Statesman, September 20, 2003

Utility criticized for incomplete impact studies

It has taken Idaho Power Co. 10 years and $45 million to prepare its final application to relicense its Hells Canyon dam complex, but environmental groups still say that the company has more work to do.

“Idaho Power gets an ´incomplete´ grade on its application,” said Connie Kelleher of American Rivers, a group that advocates protection of rivers.

“The company has a lot more work to do if it´s going to meet its obligation to protect public resources.”

This week, American Rivers and Idaho Rivers United submitted a formal request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking the agency to require that Idaho Power carry out additional studies.

“Idaho Power hasn´t done the studies that will tell us what needs to be done to make up for the dams´ impacts on the river and salmon.

“Before FERC gives Idaho Power another 30-year license to generate power at these dams, we need to have the facts and the science so we know how best to protect the river and its wildlife,” according to Kelleher.

FERC allows interested parties to file formal study requests if they believe the final license application is deficient.

“Without critical information about the very real economic and ecological impacts of Idaho Power´s operation of these dams, the licensing process becomes a bureaucratic exercise that wastes time and money and does nothing to benefit the Snake River ecosystem,” said Jenna Borovansky of Idaho Rivers United.

The additional studies requested by conservation groups include:

The groups also would like to see a study on the economic benefits of improved recreational opportunities that might arise from better environmental conditions in the new licenses.

Idaho Power officials, however, dismiss the group´s claims, saying they have provided more than adequate studies addressing the issues.

Company spokesman Dennis Lopez said there are 1,900 pages in the application related to studies about the effect of sediment, four studies on water quality and one study encompassing 3,800 pages on reintroduction of salmon and steelhead populations.

“We have a good application and I guess ultimately it will be up to FERC to decide whether it is or not,” Lopez said.

The Hells Canyon project is Idaho Power´s largest hydropower operation, generating about two-thirds of its total hydropower output.

Idaho Power is requesting a new 30-year license to operate the three dam complex on the Snake River between Idaho and Oregon.

The current license expires in 2005.

Lopez said in November that the FERC will issue the public hearing schedule to take comment on the license.

If FERC does request any additional studies, those requests will come in December.

Ken Dey
Groups Hit Idaho Power Over Dam Licensing
Idaho Statesman, September 20, 2003

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