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Health, Science & Environment

Agency Agrees With Critics of Proposed Dam

Federal regulators are snubbing plans for a new dam on the Bear River in Idaho that’s has lots of local critics.

The Twin Lakes Canal Company in Idaho wants to build the dam to generate 10 megawatts of energy and to store irrigation water, but staffers for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission say a license should be rejected on environmental grounds.

A 4.5-mile section of narrows north of the Utah line is a favorite spot for trout fishing, tubing and other recreation. Star Coulbrooke, whose family homesteaded the scenic area more than a century ago, formed a citizens group to fight the proposal.

“It’s really crowded a lot of the time in the summer,” she says of the popular stretch near her family’s land, “but you can find places where you can be completely alone and all you can hear is the river. There are eagles up there that just soar over like they own the place.”

Recreationists aren’t the only critics. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho objects to the dam. So do historians who want to preserve the Bear River Massacre Site. Pacificorp has four dams on the river that generate enough power for 53,000 homes and irrigate hundreds of acres of farmland. Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for the regional power company, says the dam also would drown millions of dollars of investments in environmental projects the company’s made.

“We have commitments as part of our federal license that we are very concerned about – fish recovery, water quality improvements, recreational land management issues.”

Federal regulators will field public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement next week in Preston, Idaho. But a final decision on the dam could be months away.

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