long-standing dispute regarding endangered species may find resolution this
summer when the governors of Idaho and Oregon attempt to work through their
disagreements regarding fish passage over the Hells Canyon Complex of dams on
the Snake River.
April 11 letter co-signed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Idaho Governor
Butch Otter, asked Idaho Power to withdraw and re-file its pending water quality
certification applications in both states in order to provide the governors an
opportunity to work through opposing laws on endangered species recovery.
governors’ letter to Brett Dumas, Idaho Power
of environmental affairs, said, “We expect the states to commence discussions
immediately and be concluded by September 1, 2017 so that the licensing and 401
Certification processes can proceed consistent with our discussions.”
Power responded to the governors’ letter three days later, addressing the heads
of both states’ departments of environmental quality.
“Pursuant to a request from the governors of
Idaho and Oregon received on April 11, 2017, Idaho Power, with this letter,
withdraws and concurrently resubmits an application for § 401 certification.”
longstanding disagreement between the two states was underscored last July in a
letter from Otter to Brown regarding Oregon law requiring passage, primarily
for endangered steelhead, salmon and bull trout, into its Snake River
tributaries upstream from the dam.
wrote, “Such occurrence would violate long-standing Idaho law and policy
opposing reintroduction of any species without consent of the Idaho State
Legislature and executive branch.”
Eaton of Otter’s office of species conservation said it’s not any secret that
fish passage is the big issue hanging up the states from issuing water quality
certifications necessary for Idaho Power to receive a new license from the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
said Gov. Brown didn’t respond to Otter’s July letter regarding fish passage,
but the two governors met for about 20 minutes at the National Governors
Association winter meeting at the end of February in Washington, D.C.
was more or less a key moment,” Eaton said.
that meeting the governors agreed they needed to increase communication between
said procedurally, Idaho Power’s withdrawal and resubmittal of its state water
quality applications restarts the clock, giving Oregon DEQ a year to complete
its certification, (Idaho’s process isn’t a full year) but it may not take as
long as that. He said the Sept. 1 date is ambitious, but will keep
conversations between the two governors moving.
set that date as a goal so we didn’t lose momentum,” Eaton said.
the governors’ assurance that their offices will come up with a solution by
September, Eric Nigg of Oregon DEQ said the states’ departments of
environmental quality will be involved.
there are any changes to the certificate conditions, those would come from us
and Idaho DEQ,” Nigg said.
Bowlin, Idaho Power communication specialist, said after 11 years of
submitting, withdrawing and resubmitting their clean water applications with
the border states, Idaho Power staff thought their submittal last July would be
their last. He said resetting the clock provides the states an opportunity to
come with a solution for fish passage, a topic on Oregon and Idaho are
diametrically opposed, but he said the deadline is encouraging.
are certainly happy the states are addressing the issue,” Bowlin said. “The
ball is really in the two states’ courts. We are in a ‘wait and see’ position
to see what evolves out of those discussions.”
Power’s license expired in 2005 and the utility has been running the Hells
Canyon Complex on one-year licenses granted by FERC ever since. In order to
keep operating, each year the power company has submitted and withdrawn clean
water certification applications to both Idaho and Oregon. Brad Bowlin,
communications specialist for Idaho Power said the repeated filing and
withdrawing of the 401 is part of the process Idaho Power has been going
through with the states in developing a final certification and an overall
summer Idaho Power submitted applications to both states with the intent to
allow for the full-year process to play out this time. The states worked in
tandem, adjusting and readjusting their deadline for public comments on their
Idaho Power anticipated the states’ disagreement on water quality and fish
passage would hamper getting compliant certifications so in November the power
company petitioned FERC to issue a declaratory order that the Federal Power Act
preempts fish passage provisions contained in Oregon Revised Statute.
issued an order dismissing the petition that said without knowing the outcome
of the final state certifications, it was too soon to make the call whether the
Federal Power Act preempts Oregon law or not.
CBB, Feb. 10, 2017, “Idaho Power Caught Between Idaho, Oregon Laws Regarding
Fish Passage At Hells Canyon Complex” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438308.aspx
CBB, Dec. 16, 2016, “Oregon, Idaho Differ On Clean Water Act Interpretations
Regarding Snake River’s Hells Canyon Complex” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438093.aspx