Idaho and Oregon have worked out a deal to keep operating the Hells Canyon Complex on the Snake River.
The Governors of both states announced the agreement this week. The Associated Press reports it involves three players: Idaho, Oregon and Idaho Power.
The two states have been at odds over dams and fish. Oregon wanted to make sure salmon and steelhead were returned above the dams. Idaho was worried that could cost a lot of money in restoration work in problem areas. Idaho Power was caught in the middle as it tries to get a new 50-year license for the Complex from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The old one expired in 2005.
In the agreement, Idaho Power will spend more than $300 million on fish, water quality and habitat improvements. The money will help pay for any harm that comes to salmon from the dams and for water coming from the dams that is too warm under federal standards. And under the plan, the question of fish passage will come up again after the first 20 years into the new license.
Despite the agreement, it may still take a while for Idaho Power to get a license. The company has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the water temperature at a hydroelectric project where fall chinook salmon reproduce.
The Hells Canyon Complex makes up roughly 30% of Idaho Power’s power generation. The company provides power to almost 534,000 customers in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon.
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