Feds Say No to a Proposed New Dam

Federal officials recommend not issuing a license for a proposed new hydropower dam on the Bear River in Idaho, citing the outstanding values of that section of the river.

Kevin Lewis

The damage that had been undone but tried to be redone won’t be done again. I apologize for the confusion but I was equally confused when a power company proposed to build a dam on a pristine section of the Bear River in Idaho just a few miles downstream of where a dam had been previously removed. Thanks to the smart staff at a federal agency that regulates hydropower in our nation, the dam will likely not be built.

The staff at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) last week in which they urge the Commission not to issue a license for a proposed 109-foot-tall hydroelectric dam proposed on a section of the Bear River in southeast Idaho found suitable for Wild and Scenic river protections.

In their findings, the staff determine that even the mitigation measures proposed by the power company “would not adequately offset the adverse effects of constructing and operating a new major hydroelectric project on a currently scenic river reach in an undeveloped canyon with remarkable recreational, geological, and wildlife values and public access.”

The removal of Cove Dam on the Bear River in 2006 happened as part of a hydroelectric settlement with another power company and reconnected 29 miles of the river, restored fish-spawning tributaries and improved fish habitat and water quality. If allowed to be built, among other things, the new dam would’ve caused a substantial reduction in the size of cutthroat fishery, resulted in a loss of 4.5 miles of habitat for Bonneville cutthroat as well as loss of 249 acres of conservation land which was a result of a previous licensing settlement. However, the determination by FERC staff in addition with a denial of water right by the Idaho Department of Water Resources in 2012 has effectively killed the project.

For now, the fish can rejoice.

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