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Dec-18-2018 19:48printcomments

DEQ Opens Public Comment on Hells Canyon Complex Hydroelectric Project

There is a public hearing on the certification at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan 9 at the Portland State Office Building, Room 1E, 800 NE Oregon St., Portland.

Hells Canyon dam
Aerial view of the Hells Canyon dam.
Photo: Wikipedia

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality invites public comment on water quality certification for the Hells Canyon Complex Hydroelectric Project.

The project is located on the Snake River in the southern part of the Hells Canyon along the border between Oregon and Idaho, encompassing the Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams.

The Hells Canyon Complex influences many aspects of water quality and fish habitat, including temperature, dissolved oxygen, algal growth, methylmercury production and fish passage.

DEQ has worked with Idaho Power and Idaho DEQ to ensure that measures will be in place to assure that Oregon water quality standards are met within the reservoirs and downstream of the project on the Snake River.

The project includes a wide range of measures funded or conducted by Idaho Power to improve water quality, fish habitat and vegetation along the Snake River and its tributaries, including Boise River, Burnt River, Malheur River, Payette River, Owyhee River, Payette River, Pine Creek, Powder River, Eagle Creek, Succor Creek, and Weiser River.

First, Idaho Power will fund significant in-stream habitat restoration projects in the Snake River basin that will reduce thermal loading to the river.

The Snake River Stewardship Program includes development and implementation of the following actions:

  • In-stream habitat restoration projects along a 30-mile reach of the Snake River, including:
    -Floodplain enhancement projects
    -Island creation projects
    -Inset floodplain creation
    -Emergent wetland creation
  • Riparian revegetation projects along 150 miles or more of tributaries of the Snake River that will increase shade and reduce warming from the sun.

The full implementation of the Snake River Stewardship Program will result in cooler water that is vitally important for fish spawning.

Second, Idaho Power will operate Brownlee Dam during periods of high water temperature in ways that reduce the water temperature of dam releases.

Other projects and water quality improvement actions that Idaho Power has committed to undertake include:

  • $6.8 million for programs addressing sediment and phosphorous related issues in multiple rivers and tributaries
  • $3.2 million for other water quality enhancement projects in the Snake River and tributaries
  • $2 million to enhance native salmonids, including bull trout and redband trout, habitat in Powder River tributaries
  • Sediment reduction projects in the Snake River
  • The use of aerating turbines at Brownlee Reservoir
  • Sampling for harmful algal blooms and issuing health advisories in coordination with the Oregon Health Authority
  • Studies on the movement and management of mercury in coordination with the U.S. Geological Survey

“I am very pleased with the more aggressive steps that Idaho Power has proposed to address water quality problems in the Snake River Basin,” said Richard Whitman, director of Oregon DEQ.

“We look forward to receiving public comment on these proposals and to finalizing what has been a long process of determining how to assure that the Hells Canyon Complex can be managed to meet Oregon and Idaho concerns.”

The public can comment on the certification through 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12, 2019. Email comments to

HCC401@deq.state.or.us

DEQ will also hold a public hearing on the certification at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, January 9 at the Portland State Office Building, Room 1E, 800 NE Oregon St., Portland. People can call into the hearing by dialing 888-363-4734 and using the access code 2045600.

View the public notice: https://www.oregon.gov/deq/get-involved/documents/021219hellscanyon.pdf

View DEQ’s Section 401 Hydropower Certification webpage: https://www.oregon.gov/deq/wq/wqpermits/Pages/Section-401-Hydropower.aspx

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