Preliminary Permits Denied on Environmental Grounds

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  • Bill Sedivy, Idaho Rivers United 
    • o) 208-343-7481
    • h)208-853-3429
  • Sara Eddie, Advocates for the West
    • c) 208-890-6630

Court of Appeals upholds denial of permits for new Snake River dams The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has ruled that federal energy regulators acted properly in citing environmental concerns and citizen opposition when rejecting preliminary permit applications for two new hydroelectric dams on the mid-Snake River near Twin Falls.The court ruling, issued Tuesday and received by parties in the case today, upholds an April 2002 decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denying preliminary applications sought by Symbiotics, LLC of Rigby, Idaho for proposed hydro projects at the site of Star Falls and Eagle Rock, located on the mid-Snake River east of Twin Falls. Symbiotics, which also has offices in Utah, appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit. IRU intervened in the case to help make sure the earlier FERC decision was upheld.In denying the applications, FERC took the unprecedented step of rejecting the dams because environmental values at the sites were found to be more important than power production. The Star Falls and Eagle Rock sites are two of the last remaining free-flowing segments of the Snake River, are protected by state law, and are valued for their scenic, fishing and boating values.Idaho Rivers United and citizen activists from the Magic Valley voiced vocal opposition to the projects as FERC considered the applications on environmental, aesthetic and recreational grounds. "This decision is wonderful for a couple of reasons," IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy said."First, it' s great to see the court uphold protections for these free reaches of the mid-Snake," Sedivy said. "Second, it' s good that the court upheld FERC's recognition of protecting rivers for environmental reasons; and finally, the court really recognizes in its decision the comments of ordinary citizens who wanted to protect their part of the Snake." "This case is a big win for citizen participation in issues affecting the management and health of our rivers," Sedivy added. In his opinion for the Court, Circuit Judge Robert H. Henry quoted several arguments against the preliminary license applications made by Idaho Rivers United and quoted at length from comments written by several citizen activists."This ruling shows that it does indeed make a difference when people speak out on conservation issues," Sedivy said. IRU was represented in the appeals case by Advocates for the West attorneys Laurie Rule, Laird Lucas and Sara Eddie. Advocates is a non-profit environmental law firm based in Boise."The Court also notes in its decision that new dams would result in violations of State Comprehensive Water Plan," Rule said. "That was one of the main arguments made by IRU in the original permit case before FERC." More information: