Under the proposed agreement, Idaho Power would increase the number of spring Chinook salmon it releases each year. The company also will fund additional research and water quality improvements in Hells Canyon over the next 20 years.
BOISE, Idaho, December 14, 2018 — The states of Idaho and Oregon, along with Idaho Power, have reached a proposed settlement over reintroduction of steelhead and spring Chinook salmon into the Snake River above Hells Canyon Dam.
The agreement removes a significant obstacle in the company’s path toward a new long-term federal license for its three hydroelectric projects in Hells Canyon.
Idaho Power has committed to spend about $20 million over the next 20 years for research, water quality and stream improvements, and boosting spring Chinook salmon production at the company’s Rapid River hatchery from the current 3.2 million juvenile fish to 4 million. This is in addition to more than $400 million already proposed through the company’s Snake River Stewardship Program, a basin-wide water-quality improvement plan. That program is a key component in meeting the company’s obligations under the federal Clean Water Act.
Section 401 of the Clean Water Act requires Idaho Power to receive water-quality certifications from both states, which will be included in its license application for Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams (collectively known as the Hells Canyon Complex).
The agreement announced Friday clears the way for the states to continue their public process for issuing those certifications, which cover a broad range of water-related issues. The agreement will not be finalized until after the states have reviewed public comment on their draft certifications, which are available for public comment at deq.idaho.gov and oregon.gov/deq.
“This proposal is the result of months of intense good-faith negotiations to find common ground that enables us to move forward with the relicensing process,” said Brett Dumas, Director of Environmental Affairs for Idaho Power. “The agreement is good for key stakeholders in the region and for the environment.”
The agreement enables both states to retain their respective positions on fish passage through Hells Canyon. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will not include introduction or reintroduction of salmon or steelhead on this border river above the Hells Canyon Complex in its water quality certification. Fish reintroduction was a key concern for the State of Idaho, which bars reintroduction without the specific approval of the governor and state legislature.
The original license for the Hells Canyon Complex expired in 2005. Since then, the company has operated the projects under a series of annual licenses while it works toward a new long-term license, which Idaho Power continues to estimate will be issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission no earlier than 2022.
The Hells Canyon Complex generates about 70 percent of the hydroelectric power that Idaho Power provides to its customers. It’s a critical resource for keeping electricity prices low while reliably delivering clean, renewable energy.
About Idaho Power
Idaho Power, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, and locally operated since 1916, is an energy company that employs approximately 2,000 people who serve more than 550,000 customers throughout a 24,000-square-mile area in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. With 17 low-cost hydroelectric projects as the core of its diverse generation portfolio, Idaho Power’s residential, business and agricultural customers pay among the nation’s lowest prices for electricity. IDACORP Inc. (NYSE: IDA), Idaho Power’s independent publicly traded parent company, is also headquartered in Boise, Idaho. To learn more, visit idahopower.com or idacorpinc.com.