Relicensing the Hells Canyon Complex

Relicensing the Hells Canyon Complex

Reliable, affordable, clean hydropower is critical to Idaho Power, our customers, and the region’s economy.

The three dams that make up the Hells Canyon Complex (HCC) — Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon — account for about 70% of Idaho Power’s hydro generation.

These dams were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and the federal license required to operate them has expired. Idaho Power is working with state and federal agencies, Tribes and others to establish the terms of a new long-term license. Once it is granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the license will guide our operations as well as our environmental and recreational programs, which are the cornerstones of our stewardship of the Snake River.

Until a new license is issued, Idaho Power operates the HCC on an annual license under the terms and conditions of the prior license. All of these facilities operate under the same license (No. 1971) granted by FERC.

Scenic photo of Hells Canyon in early fall

Relicensing Status

The original license expired in July 2005. Idaho Power applied to FERC for a new license on July 21, 2003. FERC issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project in 2007. Since then, we have worked with the states of Oregon and Idaho to receive water-quality certifications required to obtain a the new FERC license. These certifications were granted in May 2019.

On June 17, 2022, FERC issued a Notice of Intent to solicit public comment on a draft supplemental EIS to be issued by the end of 2022. An EIS is a comprehensive evaluation of how the project and its operations affect the land, air, water and wildlife. In this case, FERC is developing a supplemental EIS because the original was completed before water-quality issues arose. Since 15 years have passed, FERC needs to ensure the environmental analysis is current and comprehensive.

A final EIS could be issued by the end of 2023, which would put Idaho Power on track to receive a new long-term license in late 2024 or early 2025.

Timeline

Our Commitment to Stewardship

Idaho Power recognizes its unique responsibility as a steward of the Snake River. We embrace that role through a number of measures that were included in the original HCC license in addition to commitments we have already made in anticipation of the next one. A few of these include:

  • Studying and supporting native fish populations
  • Enhancing and maintaining thousands of acres of wildlife habitat
  • Preserving historical and cultural resources
  • Providing recreational opportunities
  • Improving water quality in the Snake River

Learn more

Snake River Stewardship

As part of our commitment to improving water quality in the river upstream from the HCC, we conduct the following work. We expect requirements for this work to continue with the new license.

trees and river icon

Restoring River Channels

We expand seasonal floodplains around river islands to create a narrower, deeper river channel that increases water velocity. That keeps the riverbed cleaner and reduces solar heating.
Learn more.

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Planting Native Vegetation

Working with local land-owners, we restore streambanks and plant thousands of native trees and shrubs along key tributaries, adding shade, reducing erosion and improving habitat.
Learn more.

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Reducing Runoff

We work with farmers and irrigation districts to convert flood and furrow irrigation to sprinklers. This uses water more efficiently and yields more crops while reducing the amount of runoff entering the Snake River.

Learn more.

 

Relicensing Documents

Our application for a new HCC license is the result of company research and input from the public agencies and entities involved in the relicensing process. View different portions of the Hells Canyon application using the links below.

Additional Information Request Reports

For assistance with a PDF on this page or to request a PDF in an alternate format, please contact Customer Service at 208-388-2323 or 1-800-488-6151