A Crooked Application on Oregon's Crooked RiverSubmitted by John Seebach on Thu, 2004-10-28 08:00
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering adjustments to the upper boundary of a federal Wild and Scenic designation on the Lower Crooked River in central Oregon in order to accommodate hydropower development. The Lower Crooked River has Wild and Scenic River (WSR) status for its outstanding recreational values and towering basalt canyons. The river is dammed just above the Wild and Scenic reach by the Bureau of Reclamation's Arthur Bowman Dam. The proposal follows a decision in early October, when FERC immediately halted an application to build hydropower facilities within the WSR boundary after BLM and Forest Service staff realized that the facilities would jut into the Wild and Scenic corridor. FERC and the state of Oregon are both prohibited by law from permitting facilities in Wild and Scenic designated rivers. The changes to the boundary of the Wild and Scenic River, however, would allow for the construction and operation of hydropower facilities.To facilitate the boundary adjustment process, BLM may rely on a 2001 presidential directive to encourage and expedite the development of energy projects. A decision on the process - whether an environmental analysis will be necessary, or whether the public will even be allowed to comment - may come out this winter.There is an additional concern, above and beyond the adjustment of the boundary, that the application may not stand independently on its merits. Presently, the company seeking to develop hydropower in the WSR corridor is the same company that has four license applications pending before FERC, all of which have been roundly criticized by federal agencies. At one point, the applicant, Symbiotics, and its subsidiaries held over 250 preliminary permits. Two of these permits called for new dams on the Snake River and were denied by FERC and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.Late Breaking News! On October 27, FERC issued an order rejecting the license application stating that the application “ patently fails to conform to the requirements of the Commission's regulations.” It is unclear if BLM will still pursue the boundary change for the Wild and Scenic section.