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Comment due Jan. 5 on proposed settlement approving Hells Canyon relicensing expenses

Hells Canyon Dam

Photo by Lorie Palmer
Hells Canyon Dam

Comment deadline is Jan. 5 on a tentative settlement involving the relicensing of Idaho Power’s largest hydropower complex.

The proposed settlement agreement calls for approximately $216.5 million in expenditures related to the relicensing of the Hells Canyon Complex to be designated as prudently incurred and eligible to be a factor in determining customer rates at a later date.

That’s a decrease of almost $5 million from Idaho Power’s initial request to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC), filed in late 2016.

The settlement is now awaiting IPUC approval. The proposed agreement does not call for a change to rates.

The Hells Canyon Complex consists of the Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams and is capable of providing 1,167 megawatts of energy. That is approximately 70 percent of Idaho Power’s annual hydroelectric generation and 30 percent of its total generating capacity.

Idaho Power is required to obtain a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in order to operate the dams.

Hells Canyon’s previous 50-year license expired in 2005. The complex has been operating under annual licenses since then as the company and stakeholders attempt to resolve a number of issues associated with the license application that Idaho Power filed with FERC in 2003.

Idaho Power said its relicensing work began in 1991 and has included extensive public review and involved a number of federal and state agencies in Idaho and Oregon.

More than 100 species with endangered, threatened or protective status are present in the complex’s general area, and Hells Canyon must comply with various provisions of the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, in addition to regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Idaho Power does not expect a decision from FERC until 2021 at the earliest.

While FERC is responsible for relicensing the complex, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission is charged with determining whether the utility can recover from customers the costs associated with obtaining the license.

To submit comments or for information, go online at, or comments can be mailed to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720-0074.


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