In 2004 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a new 30 year License Order for the Bear River Hydroelectric Project (FERC P-20) in southeast Idaho. This license followed five years of negotiations to develop a new management plan for the river. The project occupies more than 500 acres of federal lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) and are operated to meet irrigation demands, provide flood control, and generate power. Faced with the virtual certainty of lawsuits from the license application PacifiCorp initially submitted to the FERC, in late 2001 PacifiCorp began settlement negotiations with agencies and NGOs, including American Whitewater who had jointly intervened with Idaho Rivers United, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Utah State University Kayak Club, Utah Whitewater Club, Utah Rivers Council, and Eagle Rock Boating Club.
On September 26, 2002, PacifiCorp filed a comprehensive Settlement Agreement (SA) resolving all issues regarding relicensing of the Bear River Projects. The SA was signed by all federal and state agencies with jurisdiction over the Project and a host of environmental groups and public interest organizations (“NGOs”) who assert interests affected by the Project. After receiving the SA, the Commission issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS) analyzing the environmental effects of the proposed Project and all reasonable alternatives to the proposed Project. After seeking and receiving public comment, the Commission issued a Final EIS on April 11, 2003 recommending approval of the SA. After evaluating the EIS, the Commission signed a licensing Order on December 22, 2003, approving the SA with certain modifications. PacifiCorp had 30 days to accept, reject, or accept the license while requesting a rehearing to clarify specific points. They chose the latter option, thus accepting the FERC license and the bulk of its conditions. PacifiCorp and an Environmental Coordination Committee (ECC) are responsible for the adaptive management approach to implementation of the license provisions. The ECC is made up of representatives from the organizations who were signatories to the Settlement Agreement, including American Whitewater.
Scheduled releases that provide whitewater boating opportunities began in year 5 of the license (2008). The new license also requires PacifiCorp to provide more reliable flows in the Class II Oneida Narrows section north of Preston, ID. Prior to relicensing flows below Oneida dam would fluctuate between 250 to 3000 cfs several times in a single day. The new plan is more protective of the resource and provides dependable recreational opportunities for the public. Public information on project operations is now more readily accessible with the availability of a flow phone and website that publish updates on a daily basis. PacifiCorp has also committed to $16 million for restoration of Bonneville cut-throat trout in the Bear River and other measures that benefit aquatic resources of the Bear River. One of these measures included the removal of the Cove Dam in 2006 restoring an approximately 30 mile section of river between the Grace and Oneida portions of the project.
Check out our Video of the First Release!
Bear River Runs as Idaho Flows Boom
03/17/2017 - by Kevin Colburn
March is the new June in Idaho, and early snowmelt has river flows booming. The dam that normally diverts almost all the water from the Black Canyon of the Bear River has begun to spill and boatable flows are likely for for the next couple weeks. Flows are likely to reach or exceed 1,500cfs which means a rare chance to experience the Bear at big Class V flows.
Report Highlights Bear River Restoration (ID)
11/15/2011 - by Kevin Colburn
The recently finalized report on a pulse flow program on the Black Canyon of the Bear River, located in Southeastern Idaho highlights the role that new water releases are playing in the restoration of the river reach. The report documents positive effects on instream habitat and aquatic insect populations. American Whitewater is now actively working with other stakeholders to finalize a flow program on the Bear for decades to come.
Bear River (ID) Video and Release Alert
New Dam Proposed for Bear River (ID)
2011 Bear River Release Update (ID)
2014 Bear River Releases Announced (ID)
Bear River Runs as Idaho Flows Boom
- Restore: Responsibly Reviving America's Rivers
A Special Publication of the Hydropower Reform Coalition on Dam Removal in the Pacific Northwest.