Idaho Power Pushes to Relicense Dams
BOISE - Idaho Power Co. is asking federal regulators to resume a review of a new license for its Hells Canyon dam complex.
After yearlong negotiations with state and federal agencies, Indian tribes and environmental groups failed to result in a settlement over issues including whether the company should erect fish ladders for migrating salmon.
The three 50-year-old dams, located along a 25-mile stretch of the rugged Snake River canyon dividing Idaho from Oregon, are Idaho Power's largest, with a combined output of 1,167 megawatts, capable of lighting nearly 900,000 homes.
The last license expired in July 2005, and a temporary license is now in place as the utility asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to operate them for another 30 years.
In an Oct. 20 letter, Idaho Power told the commission its talks with more than a dozen government agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, Idaho and Oregon state environmental quality offices, and the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes, had ended without a pact.
"It is unlikely that the parties will be able to reach agreement, in the near term, on a comprehensive settlement," Jim Tucker, an Idaho Power lawyer, told FERC Secretary Magalie R. Salas.
Idaho Power hasn't ruled out a return to the bargaining table.
But the abyss separating the company from the other parties was too vast and would have stalled the relicensing effort, Tucker said.
As a result, he asked FERC to start its process of drawing up a preliminary environmental impact report based on the company's 36,000-page relicensing proposal. FERC has pledged to do that before the end of October.
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