Settlement in Idaho Power Permit Case to Fund over $500,000 in Tribal River Restoration Projects

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Idaho Power Settles Case with Waterkeeper for Over $750,000

Company to Pay Nez Perce Tribe Over Half Million Dollars to Mitigate Unpermitted Dam Operations

September 8, 2022 (Boise, ID) — Yesterday, Judge B. Lin Winmill approved a consent decree between Snake River Waterkeeper and Idaho Power Company that will see more than $500,000 devoted to river restoration work benefitting water quality, salmon, steelhead and other fisheries in the Snake River. Waterkeeper brought the suit after discovering the power company had been operating the turbines at its second Brownlee Dam powerhouse without a Clean Water Act permit since its construction more than 40 years ago. The suit filed by Waterkeeper also sought to compel Idaho Power to convert to biodegradable lubricants to minimize further pollution impacts of its Brownlee Dam turbine operations. In response to the filing of this case, Idaho Power also agreed to pay the State of Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality more than $1.1 million to account for permitting deficiencies and illegal discharges at 15 other dam projects the company operates in Idaho.

In the decision denying Idaho Power’s Motion to Stay the Case, Judge Winmill noted that “The Court declines Idaho Power’s invitation to assume that these unpermitted discharges that have continued for more than 40 years have not caused environmental damage”. The case was settled in mediation.

“This result is a victory for rivers and fish and a shot across the bow of noncompliant dam operators” said Buck Ryan, Executive Director of Snake River Waterkeeper. “In addition to procuring over half a million dollars for the Nez Perce Tribe to conduct river restoration projects, our lawsuit prompted Idaho Power to resolve permitting issues at 15 other dam projects and pay more than $1.1 million in sweetheart deals with DEQ that will help offset damages perpetuated by these dams. SRW is excited to see on-the-ground results realized in coming years as projects are implemented, and we’re confident the result will be revitalized river habit and healthier fisheries across the state of Idaho.”

SRW was represented in this case by S. Craig Adams and the law firm of Kampmeier & Knudsen in Portland, OR.