Relicensing the Hells Canyon Complex
Reliable, affordable, clean hydropower is critical to Idaho Power, our customers, and the region’s economy.
The three dams that make up the Hells Canyon Complex (HCC) — Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon — account for about 70% of Idaho Power’s hydro generation.
These dams were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and the federal license required to operate them has expired. Idaho Power is working with state and federal agencies, Tribes and others to establish the terms of a new long-term license. Once it is granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the license will guide our operations as well as our environmental and recreational programs, which are the cornerstones of our stewardship of the Snake River.
Until a new license is issued, Idaho Power operates the HCC on an annual license under the terms and conditions of the prior license. All of these facilities operate under the same license (No. 1971) granted by FERC.
The original license expired in July 2005. Idaho Power applied to FERC for a new license on July 21, 2003. FERC issued a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project in 2007. Since then, we have worked with the states of Oregon and Idaho to receive water-quality certifications required to obtain a the new FERC license. These certifications were granted in May 2019.
On June 13, 2022, FERC issued a Notice of Intent to prepare a draft and final supplemental EIS for the Hells Canyon Hydro Project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The supplemental EIS will describe and evaluate the effects of the Project as proposed by Idaho Power, as well as alternatives. The draft supplemental EIS will be sent to all persons and entities on FERC’s service and mailing lists for the Hells Canyon Project. Recipients will then have 60 days to review the draft supplemental EIS and file written comments with FERC.
FERC’s estimated timeline for the process is for the draft supplemental EIS to be issued in June 2023, with comments due in August 2023.
The final supplemental EIS is targeted to be complete in December 2023, which would put Idaho Power on track to receive a new long-term license in late 2024 or early 2025.
Our Commitment to Stewardship
Idaho Power recognizes its unique responsibility as a steward of the Snake River. We embrace that role through a number of measures that were included in the original HCC license in addition to commitments we have already made in anticipation of the next one. A few of these include:
- Studying and supporting native fish populations
- Enhancing and maintaining thousands of acres of wildlife habitat
- Preserving historical and cultural resources
- Providing recreational opportunities
- Improving water quality in the Snake River
Snake River Stewardship
As part of our commitment to improving water quality in the river upstream from the HCC, we conduct the following work. We expect requirements for this work to continue with the new license.
Restoring River Channels
We expand seasonal floodplains around river islands to create a narrower, deeper river channel that increases water velocity. That keeps the riverbed cleaner and reduces solar heating.
Planting Native Vegetation
Working with local land-owners, we restore streambanks and plant thousands of native trees and shrubs along key tributaries, adding shade, reducing erosion and improving habitat.
We work with farmers and irrigation districts to convert flood and furrow irrigation to sprinklers. This uses water more efficiently and yields more crops while reducing the amount of runoff entering the Snake River.
Our application for a new HCC license is the result of company research and input from the public agencies and entities involved in the relicensing process. View different portions of the Hells Canyon application using the links below.
Additional Information Request Reports
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