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Commentaries and editorials

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Want
Fish Passage Above Snake River Dams

by Keith Ridler
Idaho State Journal, March 28, 2018

Bills aim to block reintroducing fish above Hells Canyon complex

Map: Idaho Power's three dams work together as the Hells Canyon Project to produce a substantial amount of the electricity that is sold to their customers. BOISE -- The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are seeking to intervene in a utility’s attempt to negate an Oregon law requiring fish passage as part of relicensing for a hydroelectric project on the Snake River.

The Tribes on Tuesday filed documents with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking to intervene in support of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Idaho Power in February petitioned the court to review a 2017 decision by the commission dismissing the Boise-based utility’s request that it exempt the three-dam Hells Canyon Complex from an Oregon law requiring fish passage as part of relicensing.

The tribes cite their 1868 Treaty of Fort Bridger with the U.S. government.

The tribes said they could be adversely affected because the treaty gives them rights to fish off-reservation in the waters of the Snake River and its tributaries.

Brad Bowlin, Idaho Power spokesman, said the company was reviewing the document.

“Idaho Power is still actively working with the states to resolve the fish passage issue, and we remain hopeful that further litigation of this issue will be unnecessary,” he said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Idaho Power’s 50-year license to operate the complex on the Idaho-Oregon border expired in 2005, and the company has since been operating on annually issued licenses.

Oregon wants salmon and steelhead to be able to access four Oregon tributaries that feed into the Hells Canyon Complex. But Idaho lawmakers have prohibited moving salmon and steelhead upstream of the three dams.

At issue before the appeals court is Idaho Power’s argument that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution that has to do with federal authority over states pre-empts the Oregon law. The commission said it found no reason why Oregon couldn’t require fish passage and reintroduction as part of relicensing.

Biologists have said the Snake River above the dams is so degraded it couldn’t support salmon and steelhead without significant rehabilitation work, which would require cooperation from landowners.

Idaho Power supplies electricity to nearly 550,000 customers in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. The Hells Canyon Complex in a normal water year produces about 30 percent of the company’s total annual power generation.

Related Pages:
Oregon's $1 Billion Fish Plan Shouldn't Cost Idaho by Staff, Capital Press, 4/20/17
Fish Passage Dispute Ramps Up in Legislature by Peter Jensen, Idaho Mountain Express, 2/22/17
Joint Memorial Approved by House for Snake River to Hells Canyon Dam by Staff, Lewiston Tribune, 2/18/17
Idaho Irrigators Back Bills Fighting Oregon Fish Plan by John O'Connell, Capital Press, 2/21/17
Feds Reject Idaho Utility's Bid to Negate Oregon Fish Law by Keith Ridler, Idaho Statesman, 1/19/17
Idaho Irrigators Oppose Oregon Endangered Fish Reintroduction Effort by John O'Connell, Capital Press, 1/6/17
Oregon, Idaho Differ on Clean Water Act Interpretations Regarding Hells Canyon Complex by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 12/16/16
Idaho Utility Seeks to Negate Oregon Fish Passage Law by Keith Ridler, Spokesman-Review, 12/12/16


Keith Ridler
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Want Fish Passage Above Snake River Dams
Idaho State Journal, March 28, 2018

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