This week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioned (FERC) issued a final order denying a
license for the Twin Lakes Canal Company’s proposal to build a 109-foot-tall hydroelectric
dam on the Bear River in southeast Idaho. American Whitewater and our partners have worked
diligently for over 14 years to protect the Oneida Narrows section of the Bear River, and
we’re celebrating this final decision, which will keep this section of river freely
The Oneida Narrows reach of the Bear River is well known to paddlers as a beautiful class I/II
float trip suitable for beginner and intermediate kayakers, canoeists, and rafters. The reach of
river is distinct from other sections of the Bear in many ways, including offering moderate
whitewater, open canyon scenery, and daily summer flows that support whitewater paddling. It is a
recreational treasure that the proposed hydropower project would destroy. The area also attracts
visitors for other recreation opportunities, including fishing, hiking and camping. The river
here provides important habitat for the native Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, and the area is home
to 48 state-designated sensitive species.
Twin Lakes Canal Company proposed to build the new dam within a river reach that has recently
been restored through the removal of another dam in 2006. The Cove Dam removal was part of the
Settlement Agreement for the relicensing of the Bear River Hydropower Project, which is owned and
operated by PacifiCorp. American Whitewater was a signatory to this Settlement Agreement, which
also included improved flows for aquatic resources and recreation opportunities. Twin
Lakes’ proposed project threatened to jeopardize the Settlement Agreement and inundate
newly-restored habitat and destroy a beautiful section of river.
In December of 2014 American Whitewater and Idaho Rivers jointly filed a motion before FERC in
protest of the proposed Bear River Narrows Hydroelectric Project on the grounds that the project
would materially interfere with the substantial mitigation completed by PacifiCorp for their
existing project on the Bear River, the developer does not possess and lacks the ability to
secure the required water right to operate this proposed project, and the Northwest Power and
Conservation Council has established the reach as a protected area from hydropower development.
Last fall, FERC published an Environmental Impact Statement recommending that a license be
denied. In their environmental review they agreed that the Oneida Narrows section of the Bear
River represents a regionally unique and important river recreational resource that would be
destroyed by the proposed dam, for which mitigation is not possible.
This week’s order denying the license marks the final decision for the project. FERC
Commissioners state, “while we recognize the potential benefits of the Bear River Narrows
Project, we conclude, consistent with staff’s findings, that the project’s
unmitigatable adverse impacts outweigh its benefits such that we must deny the
FERC cited numerous reasons for denying the license. In addition to unavoidably altering the
whitewater and other recreation opportunities in the area, FERC also found that the dam would
have negatively impacted land and aquatic species, and that the proposed project ran counter to
numerous state, regional and federal comprehensive plans for the river.