Top 40 Issue 15: Boundary Creek, Idaho

Posted: 09/07/2000
By: Nick Lipkowski
ISSUE: New hydropower project
GOAL: Repeal Preliminary Permit for hydroproject

Current Status: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Continental Lands preliminary permit for a hydropower project on Boundary Creek in northern Idaho. The preliminary permit is the first step toward getting a license to construct the project. American Whitewater filed for a rehearing requesting the FERC reconsider their decision in light of the unavoidable environmental and recreational impacts as well as the fact that Boundary Creek has been designated as a protected watershed by the Northwest Power Planning Commission.

The preliminary permit grants the hydro developer exclusive rights to file an application for a hydropower license on Boundary Creek. The FERC issues preliminary permits for a period of three years. During the preliminary permit phase, the permit holder conducts studies to determine the economic and engineering feasibility of constructing a hydropower facility on Boundary Creek. The permit does not allow them to begin construction of the hydropower facility. The permit holder is required to submit reports every six months to the FERC describing progress on the engineering, environmental and economic studies.

The Boundary Creek hydro project would require diverting water from a significant length of the kayak run. This loss of water would greatly impact bull trout, west slope cutthroat trout and harlequin ducks. Project construction and operation would disturb caribou, grizzly bears and wolves. The kayak season would be shortened significantly if not completely eliminated. Boundary Creek is situated, as the name implies, on the border between Idaho and Canada. This is the quintessential creek run: A ten-mile paddle with gradients fluctuating between 250 to 375 feet per mile. It's described as a single rapid ten miles long.

Precedent: Based on the natural resources at risk the FERC must reverse their decision to grant a preliminary permit to Continental Lands. Boundary Creek hydro is unwarranted because there is currently a surplus of electricity in the Pacific Northwest. Boundary Creek, its associated species and recreational opportunities, on the other hand, is an irreplaceable resource. The damages resulting from hydro projects are long lasting.

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