Earlier today the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) cancelled the permit that had granted a limited liability corporation exclusive rights to study and pursue de-watering Boundary Creek, located in Northern Idaho. The proposed hydropower project would have severely impacted over 6 miles of the pristine and biologically vital stream in the wild Selkirk Mountains.
The permit was originally granted in May of 2010, amidst a hailstorm of comments voicing concerns over impacts to recreation, endangered fish and wildlife, and water quality. American Whitewater worked closely with the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, the Lands Alliance, and the Selkirk Conservation Alliance to oppose this high-impact hydropower proposal. In 2012, we filed a formal intervention that outlined the many problems with the proposed dam and diversion.
In May of 2013, the FERC warned the prermit holder that a mandatory 6-month progress report was overdue, risking cancellation. Having heard nothing in response, the FERC rightly cancelled the permit 30 days later. It is impossible to know the rationale for the LLC abandoning the project, but we must assume the massive impacts and small value of the project, legal hurdles, and public opposition played a role.
Just down the ridge, another Northern Idaho gem remains threatened. A different LLC has an active permit to explore damming and dewatering Boulder Creek. We have also intervened into the Boulder Creek permit, and continue to actively oppose this high-impact and low-value project as well.
If you head up to Boundary Creek for a victory lap, keep your eyes open for caribou at the put-in, grizzly bears while scouting, and mountain lions at the take out. Last week a paddler got chased by a lion at the takeout and had to jump into her car. With the hydropower permit cancelled, Boundary Creek might just remain as wild into the future as it is today.