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Success and Scheduled Flows on the Bear River (ID)

Posted: 02/14/2012
by Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater is pleased to announce that we have negotiated a modified flow regime for the Black Canyon of the Bear River in Idaho.  Under the new agreement between AW and the other members of the Ecological Coordination Committee that was set up to implement a 2002 hydropower settlement agreement, PacifiCorp will provide nine scheduled pulse flows between April 1 and June 5 each year for the next three years.  These flows should provide a range of high quality Class IV+ (V) whitewater boating opportunities that are unique to the area.  The spawning behavior and movements of stocked Bonneville cutthroat trout will be monitored throughout this period to determine if some of the pulse flows can be scheduled later in the high flow season after the initial 3-year period.  Water quality will also be monitored to ensure the current positive trends continue or are not reversed. 

In 2002 American Whitewater and our partners negotiated whitewater boating flows on the Bear River to mitigate the recreational and ecological impacts of the Grace dam and diversion.  These flows were to be provided on weekends between April 1 and July 15 each year if and when inflows reached a certain trigger.  The negotiated plan called for three years of baseline monitoring prior to releases beginning (2005-2007), and three years of monitoring the boating releases (2008-2010), after which the release program could be modified.  Results of the monitoring were very positive, however in the decade since the agreement new opportunities arose to stock a species of concern, Bonneville cutthroat trout, and assess their use of the Black Canyon.   

While we learned a great deal about the ecological recovery of the Bear River over the past decade, we have also learned a lot about recreational use preferences and hydropower operations.  These factors lead the ECC to renegotiate a new plan for providing pulse flows on the Bear River.

Under the new plan, all releases will be scheduled well in advance each year to enhance recreational use, make monitoring and maintenance easier, and to ease PacifiCorp staffing demands.  Nine releases per year will be provided because that is the average number of releases that would have been provided under the original agreement.  Flows will not be provided between June 5 and July 15 to allow the ECC to assess spawning behavior or Bonneville cutthroat trout for the next three years.  It is expected that the flow program will then be continued (possibly with a longer season) for the life of the decades-long federal hydropower license. 

The 2012 Release Schedule is:

  • April 28 and 29
  • May 5 and 6
  • May 19 and 20
  • June 1, 2 and 3

On scheduled days, flows of 900 cfs or inflow, whichever is greater, will be provided on each day.  Releases will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Between adjoining release days, night-time flows of 200 cfs will be provided. 

We would like to thank American Whitewater volunteer Charlie Vincent for attending countless Bear River meetings on our behalf.  The thousands of hours that Charlie has dedicated to this project are a wonderful gift to the Bear River and the paddling community.  This exciting new agreement would not have been possible without Charlie.


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September 2020

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Bear River Releases
10:00 am -4:00 pm mst
1200-900 cfs

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Bear River Releases
10:00 am -4:00 pm mst
1200-900 cfs

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Events
Bear River Releases Grace,ID runs 05/03/08 - 09/13/20
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Associated Projects

Bear River Restoration (ID)
Hydropower relicensing on the Bear River offered an opportunity to restore aquatic resources and recreational opportunities on this river.