A scenic stretch of the Bear River just north of the Utah line has been eyed for years as the proposed site for the Bear River Narrows Dam.
But staff for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded this week that the dam can’t be built without ruining a popular tubing and fishing spot and millions of dollars of habitat restoration.
Kathy Rinaldi of Greater Yellowstone Coalition says the 4.5-mile stretch is special and the last truly wild section of the Bear.
“To think of that area inundated, with a dam and another reservoir,” she says, “is pretty heartbreaking considering the environmental impacts as well as the recreational amenities that it provides folks and the economic benefit it provides to the communities down there.”
Other critics include the Idaho-based Shoshone Bannock tribe and historians set on preserving the Bear River Massacre site.
The Twin Lakes Canal Company has proposed the dam for storing water for irrigation and for 10 megawatts of hydropower.
Company President Clair Bosen says the fight’s not over.
“We’ve been working on this 14 years, and spent millions of dollars,” he says, “and we wouldn’t have kept going if we didn’t feel like we were making headway and that FERC was saying anything derogatory about the project.”
Bosen says the dam offers other benefits to the community, like improved water conservation and stability for farmers who often face irrigation shortages. But other observers say the staff’s advice is almost certain to mean the commission will deny the license. A final decision’s not expected for several weeks.