© 2021 Boise State Public Radio
WebHeader_3.png
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Environment
The morning of February 4, 2015, Boiseans woke up to a river with almost no water in it. After making some calls, KBSX reporter Frankie Barnhill learned the Barber Dam was to blame. An overnight power outage tripped the 100-year-old hydroplant offline, causing the river to back up behind it for hours. Barnhill contacted the company that leases the Barber Dam from Ada County, asking for an explanation of what happened – and what was being done to fix it. Enel Green Power is an international firm with energy holdings in a number of American cities.In enterprising follow-up reports, Barnhill interviewed Ada County officials, Idaho Fish and Game biologists and environmental advocates. The question of how much damage the river's dewatering could have inflicted on the fish and insect population was a big one, as well as how Enel may contribute to a river mitigation project. A public outcry for accountability prompted Ada County to host a special meeting in the spring, which Barnhill covered.The story continued over the summer as a newly created Ada County environmental advisory board began discussions about a river restoration project, to be paid for equally by both the county and Enel. Environmentalists and biologists were feeling assured by Enel's engagement in the oversight board.Then, in September, a second power outage shut down Barber Dam and dewatered the river substantially. Barnhill received a tip about the outage and interviewed an executive with Enel about this second incident, which put the company back in the spotlight. She brought to light gaps in the system, including the lack of a backup generator at the hydroplant.Barnhill continues to follow this story closely, holding Enel and Ada County officials accountable.Scroll down to the bottom of this page for the first story in the series.

Update: Idaho Fish And Game Says Boise River Flow Stopped Completely Below Barber Dam

Boise_River1.jpg
Frankie Barnhill
/
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Fish and Game biologists are looking closely at the shallow areas of the Boise River right below Barber Dam. They're trying to determine how many trout hatchlings may have died when the river's flow dropped dramatically earlier this week.

Biologist Joe Kozfkay says flows immediately below the dam were at 0 cubic feet per second (cfs) for up to seven hours after the privately-owned dam's alert system failed. Enel Green Power owns the hydroelectric plant.

Kozfkay says the department is most concerned about the habitat impacts between Barber Dam and Broadway Avenue bridge, where the river was at its lowest.

The nearest gauge is located at the Glenwood Bridge, which is more than 10 miles downstream from Barber Dam. Flow at the Glenwood monitor dropped to 81 cfs early Wednesday morning.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio

Related Content