almost two years of negotiations, Oregon conceded salmonid reintroduction above
the Hells Canyon Complex in a settlement agreement reached last week.
Power’s ability to relicense the Complex with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission has long been hampered by a disagreement between bordering states --
Oregon law requires fish passage above dams and Idaho law prohibits
reintroduction of endangered species, such as Snake River chinook and
steelhead, into blocked areas.
stipulation and agreement released Dec. 14 for a 60-day public comment period
includes no fish passage requirements.
Nigg, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality water quality manager said, “We
are not able to instruct Idaho Power to reintroduce any salmonids because of
the agreement directs Idaho Power to develop, along with Oregon Department of
Fish and Wildlife, an anadromous fish placement, monitoring and evaluation plan
for Pine Creek in Baker County with 90 days of receiving its license from the
Commission. Pike Creek flows into Brownlee Reservoir above the Hells Canyon
agreement said Idaho Power will annually trap juvenile spring chinook salmon
and summer steelhead to collect data on population estimates, age,
out-migrating time and to insert passive integrated transponder tags into 5,000
fish of each species.
Power formally started its relicensing request for Hells Canyon Complex in
2006. Each year the company has submitted and withdrawn its applications to
Idaho and Oregon for clean water certification, because of a variety of issues,
but fish passage was the final hurdle.
Oliveira, public information officer for Oregon Department of Environmental
Quality, said, “Fish passage put the whole thing in a holding pattern.”
the settlement agreement does not call for fish passage right away, it doesn’t
close the door on the opportunity down the road. Idaho Power agreed to fund 20
years of habitat restoration and research that will look into whether or not
passage of anadromous fish into Oregon tributaries is feasible.
opportunity to enhance water quality in Oregon tributaries like Pine Creek in
Baker County has officials hopeful. Another nod to keeping fish passage an
option is the agreement does not restrict either state from advocating their
fish and wildlife policies directly to the Commission.
original license for the Hells Canyon Complex expired in 2005. Since then,
Idaho Power 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 FERC no earlier than 2022.
Dumas, director of Environmental Affairs for Idaho Power, said, “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.”
about water quality certification compliance prompted Idaho Power to start
habitat restoration a few years ago through the Snake River Stewardship Program
in which the company proposed spending $400 million.
addition to this commitment, the agreement dictates Idaho Power to work with ODFW
on a plan that would evaluate fish habitat while paying Oregon DEQ $200,000 per
year for 16 years to enhance water quality in the Snake and its Oregon
the agreement requires the company to pay out $6.8 million over 20 years to
help modify agricultural land use to reduce sediment and phosphorus loading in
the Snake, Malheur and Owyhee rivers.
three years of receiving its license, the agreement said Idaho Power is to
identify adult fish migration barriers like water temperature, flow, grade, as
well as natural and man-made barriers. Within five years, the company will do
the same for salmonids in the Powder River basins below Thief Valley Dam.
years after relicensing Idaho Power will assess the pathogen risk associated
with upstream fish passage into Oregon tributaries and evaluate habitat
conditions in Pine Creek and the mainstem Snake River. A year later the company
is directed to prepare a summary of options available for upstream and
downstream passage of non-Endangered Species Act listed anadromous fish in
Oregon tributaries, including a proposed course of action for fish passage for
the remainder of the license term.
release of the Idaho and Oregon clean water certifications Dec. 14 started a
60-day public comment period. To provide comments, which will be part of the
public record, send in written form or attend the public hearing at 2 p.m.
Wednesday, January 9 at the Portland State Office Building Room 1E 800
Northeast Oregon Street, Portland.
can be submitted by mail, fax or email to Marilyn Fonseca, hydropower program
coordinator 700 NE Multnomah, Suite 600 Portland, OR 97232; Fax 503-229-5675;
email HCC401@deq.state.or.us. All comments are due by 5 p.m. Tuesday, February
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