President Bush Approves Extension for Idaho Hydropower Project

December 20, 2006

Only 3 percent of the 80,000 dams in the United States produce power, and it would be feasible to add an estimated 16,700 megawatts of new hydropower to some of those existing dams. That sounds nice in theory, but a group of five irrigation districts in Idaho have found that the idea can be difficult in practice. The Boise-area irrigation districts obtained a federal license in 1989 to add two 7.5-megawatt turbines to two of the outlets from Arrowrock Dam, a Bureau of Reclamation dam on the Boise River. Shortly after the license was obtained, the Bull Trout was listed as an endangered species, causing a re-evaluation of the project. Although construction of the project should have started within two years after the license was issued, the Bull Trout issue and other complications have required the U.S. Congress to repeatedly step in and extend the deadline on the project.

In 2005, the irrigation districts committed to funding the project and the Clatskanie People's Utility District (PUD) in Oregon agreed to buy the power generated at the dam, but the license expired in 2006 before construction was started. House Resolution 4377, introduced in late 2005, will extend the construction deadline by another three years. The bill passed Congress in late September and was signed by President Bush on December 13th. See the White House press release, the text of the bill (PDF 30 KB), and the Clatskanie PUD fact sheet on the project (PDF 153 KB). Download Adobe Reader.