lawsuit filed in June by Idaho Power aimed at forcing the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to set temperature standards downstream of the utility’s
Snake River dams in Hells Canyon was put on hold while the EPA completes the
work to set the standards.
state of Idaho in 2012 had asked the EPA to change its water temperature
standards for chinook salmon that spawn downstream of the utility’s Hells
Canyon Complex of three dams, but it had failed to act on the request. Idaho
Power needs the EPA to set water quality standards in the river, including the
temperature standard, so it can get an approved water quality permit as it
proceeds with relicensing the three dams it owns on the Snake River.
lawsuit, filed by Idaho Power in June in the U.S. District Court in Idaho, said
that the EPA was violating environmental and administrative laws by failing to
approve or disapprove water temperature standards that had been submitted in
2012 by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for the section of the
Snake River on the Oregon-Idaho border.
Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush agreed in early November to stay the
lawsuit while the EPA officially approves the temperature standard, ordering
the EPA to make 30-day status reports until the stay ends on March 11.
this is what we wanted for six years,” Idaho Power spokesman Brad Bowlin said.
“We’re optimistic things are moving in the right direction. This is definitely
a good step forward.”
June, Idaho Power said that the “suit is necessary to preserve its legal
options regarding specific temperature standards for water flowing out of the
company’s most downstream dam. While the suit proceeds, Idaho Power will
continue working with the states of Idaho and Oregon to achieve water quality
certification as part of the relicensing process.”
stretch of the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam is an important spawning area
for fall chinook salmon that were listed in the 1990s as threatened under the
federal Endangered Species Act.
current temperature standard for water during the salmon’s spawning period
changes from 19 degrees Celsius (66.2 degrees Fahrenheit) to 13 C (55.4 F) on
Oct. 23. Under the proposed change, the temperature standard drops from 19C to
14.5C (58.1 F) on Oct. 23 and then to 13C on Nov. 6.
site-specific standard cites research from scientists and government agencies
responsible for protecting the salmon showing that a temperature standard of
14.5 C continues to protect the fish. The science is supported by 25 years of
increasingly successful spawning below Hells Canyon Dam, the utility said.
Power said the current temperature standards have never been met, at least with
records going back to 1991, according to the Associated Press. The new
standard, however, would be met in most years, the utility said.
temperature of water flowing out of Hells Canyon Dam is a key hurdle remaining
between Idaho Power and a new long-term license for its most important power
source, the Hells Canyon Complex, which includes Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells
Canyon dams. The utility’s 50-year license expired in 2005.
at issue is fish passage through the three dams: Idaho Power, as well as the
state of Idaho oppose adding fish passage facilities, an addition to the dams
that would reintroduce salmon and steelhead to upriver reaches. Oregon and the
Shoshone Bannock Tribes are pushing for reintroduction.
CBB, April 6, 2018, “Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Side With Oregon On Issue Of Fish
Passage At Hells Canyon Dams,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440473.aspx
CBB, May 5, 2017, “Hells Canyon Fish Passage: Idaho, Oregon Governors' Letter
Sets Up Process To Resolve Differences” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438853.aspx
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