Dam removal possible on Utah's Bear River


The Bear River project, a series of four dams, was consolidated under a single license in 2003 after a comprehensive settlement involving a broad group of stakeholders, including members American Whitewater, Trout Unlimited, and Idaho Rivers United. Now in license and settlement implementation, a stakeholder consensus was reached to remove one of the older developments, Cove Dam. A description of the project and potential removal from Utah Power's (PacifiCorp) March 7th press release:Proposal will outline Cove Project decommissioningPORTLAND— An agreement has been reached on a proposal to retire the Cove Project, one of four PacifiCorp hydroelectric developments in Idaho on the Bear River. The proposal must be accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which granted a new federal license to the plants in December 2003. The process to evaluate the proposal could take about a year.PacifiCorp reached agreement on the proposal among the same parties that reached settlement for the new Bear River Project license. The utility and these parties organized the Environmental Coordinating Committee (ECC), which is charged with helping implement the terms of the license.A requirement to evaluate decommissioning the Cove Project was included in the new 30-year license issued by the FERC to PacifiCorp' s four Bear Lake hydroelectric projects in Idaho. If the plan is approved by the FERC, PacifiCorp would remove most of the Cove facilities from the site, including the 1-mile concrete and timber flowline. The Cove powerhouse would remain and PacifiCorp would conduct certain restoration work of the river in the vicinity of the Cove forebay and flowline.Retirement of the Cove Project increases connectivity for fish and other aquatic resources in Bear River. This action will also enhance the generation potential of the Grace Plant, directly upstream, by reducing the bypass flow requirement.Removal of the Cove Project will in no way affect or impair PacifiCorp obligations to deliver irrigation water through the Bear River system.“This proposal will enhance aquatic resources in the Bear River and dovetail with PacifiCorp's FERC license commitment to participate in conservation of the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout,” said Therese Lamb, PacifiCorp' s Director of Relicensing and Compliance. “It will also protect irrigation water deliveries through the Bear River system.” Bear River Project details:

  • The Soda Project, 14 megawatts, located 44 miles downstream of Bear Lake, completed in 1925. The Soda dam is 103 feet high and 433 feet long. The Soda reservoir has a surface area of 1,100 acres, and active storage capacity of 16,300 acre-feet, and a maximum water surface elevation of 5,720 feet.
  • The Grace Project, 33 megawatts, located six miles downstream of the Soda Project, completed in 1912 and enlarged several times through 1927.
  • The Cove Project, 7.5 megawatts, built in 1917 just downstream of Grace, to take advantage of the tailrace waters of the Grace powerhouse.
  • The Grace/Cove project features an upstream diversion dam 51 feet high and 180-foot-long; a 26,000-foot-long flow-line to carry water to the power house, and a 6,125-foot-long concrete and wood flume that carries water from the Grace power house to Cove.
  • The Oneida Project, 30 megawatts, 22 miles downstream of the Grace/Cove Project, built in stages between 1912 and 1920. The project dam is 111 feet high and 456 feet long; the reservoir has an active storage of 10,880 acre-feet and a surface area of 480 acres.
  • The Cutler Project, 29 megawatts, Cache County, Utah, first began producing power in 1927. The 109 foot-high Cutler Dam forms a 5,500 acre reservoir which is also a major recreation area. The reservoir includes a large wetland complex that is important habitat for dozens of bird species. The area surrounding the reservoir is mostly agricultural land. Cutler was granted a new license by the FERC in April 1994.

For information, contact:Kevin Lewis, Idaho Rivers United, 208-343-7481David Eskelsen, Utah Power, 801-220-2447Utah Power Media Hotline, 800-775-7950