Hydropower

erin_pass / Flickr Creative Commons

The Black Canyon Dam was built in 1924 on the Payette River northeast of Emmett. The two original generators create 10 megawatts of power and help protect against flooding. The Bureau of Reclamation was planning to install a third power plant at Black Canyon, but the project is now on hold.


Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The Barber Dam in east Boise lost power one night in February of 2015. Once offline, the flow of water through the hydroelectic plant stopped – causing the river to run dry for about eight hours.

Enel Green Power

On September 17, the flow in the Boise River dropped from 621 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 335 cfs. The drop occurred at Barber Dam, a hydroelectric plant east of town.

The dam is operated by Enel Green Power, an international hydropower company. The company leases the plant from Ada County. According to Enel operations director Conrad St. Pierre, an electrical failure on the Idaho Power circuit occurred the morning of September 17.

Wendy / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from an environmental think tank ranks Idaho among the states with a low ecological footprint. The study from the Global Footprint Network ranked states against one other on a number of green measures. Idaho received the top ranking for electricity generated from renewable energy. Washington and Oregon come in second and third, respectively.

A close look shows the renewable source that earned Idaho its high ranking is hydropower, with wind and biomass taking up smaller shares.

Frankie Barnhill

After it became clear that a power outage and failed alarm system at the Barber Dam caused the Boise River to flow nearly dry for eight hours on February 4, Marie Callaway Kellner of the Idaho Conservation League began asking for action.

When officials at North Side Canal Co. realized that they needed to replace an aging concrete gate, they chose one that would pay for itself.

The Twin Falls Times-News reports that the new gate doubles as a hydroelectric power plant and is expected to generate $8 million worth of electricity over the next 28 years.

That's enough to cover the entire cost of the project.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

About 100 people showed up at a meeting Wednesday night to hear what caused an east Boise dam to malfunction in February, and what steps are being taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Part of the Boise River was reduced to nearly a trickle for about eight hours overnight on February 4 when a power grid fluctuation caused the Barber Dam to shut down. Ada County owns the dam, but leases the hydroelectric plant to Enel Green Power.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The public will have the chance to talk with elected officials about a power outage that caused the Boise River to dry up earlier this year. The Ada County Commission is holding a meeting on May 27 to discuss the accidental dewatering.

waterarchives.org / Flickr Creative Commons

It's still not clear what caused last week's malfunction at the Barber Dam in Boise. As we reported last week, the Boise River backed up behind the dam after an apparent power outage shut down the plant late Tuesday night. The river dropped well-below normal flows for almost eight hours before the dam's operators got it back up and running.

Suzba / Flickr Creative Commons

After a power plant's alert system failed causing Wednesday's dramatic drop in the Boise River flow, Idaho Fish and Game biologists are concerned about potential impacts to wildlife. The river went from flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 81 cfs in a matter of hours.

Barber Dam's power was restored early Wednesday morning, constricting the flow of water for nearly eight hours.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.

You might have noticed the Boise River was lower than normal Wednesday morning. At midnight, the gauge at Boise's Glenwood Bridge showed the river was flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs). At 10:45 a.m., the river had dropped to just 81 cfs. 

Ryan Hedrick is a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that controls the flow of water to the river at Lucky Peak. He says the significant drop this morning was due to a problem at a Boise hydroelectric plant in the middle of the night.

An effort to streamline the regulatory process for small hydropower dams is generating a rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress. Two bills sailed through a Senate committee Wednesday. They've already passed the House.

Whatever gridlock exists elsewhere, it didn't show up in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A voice vote was unanimous.