article photo 1

Future of Hells Canyon Up For Debate

Posted: 09/14/2006
by Kevin Colburn

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is accepting written public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement it prepared as part of the relicensing process for the 3-dam complex on the Snake River, on the Oregon-Idaho border.  These dams and upstream land management severely impact the once great Snake River in many ways, including impacts to the incredible class IV Hells Canyon reach immediately downstream.
Below are some of the issues our partner Idaho Rivers United has identified as important in the relicensing process:
  •  Require fish passage: FERC should immediately require fish passage for spring chinook and steelhead into tributaries within Hells Canyon, and require fall chinook passage once water quality is sufficiently restored.
  • Restore clean water: Pollution is concentrated in the pools behind the Hells Canyon dams, contributing to mercury contamination in fish and creating a health hazard. FERC should require Idaho Power to meet all state and federal water quality standards in the area impacted by the dams.
  • Improve flows: Right now, Idaho Power can quickly and drastically change river levels, which is very damaging to the ecosystem. FERC should make Idaho Power stop this harmful practice, implement tighter ramping rate restrictions, and release water from the dams in a way that benefits salmon and steelhead.
  • Restore beaches: On an annual basis, the dams hold back 220,000 to 384,000 tons of sand and gravel. FERC must require Idaho Power to replenish both gravel and sand so that beaches for river recreation can be restored.
  • Assess economic benefits: FERC failed to adequately assess the substantial economic benefits of a restored river. FERC must calculate the regional economic benefits of restored salmon runs, cleaner water and restored beaches to the recreation and fishing industries, and to communities.

Many of our northwestern members recently recieved a mailer from Idaho Rivers United which includes a postcard to send to FERC.  We are working closely with Idaho Rivers United on this issue and encourage our members to send in the postcard, or to write your own comments regarding Hells Canyon. 

Associated Rivers