- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Federal authorities have issued a final environmental impact statement recommending denial of a proposed dam in southeast Idaho on the Bear River.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released the document last week on the Bear River Narrows Project. The next step in the process is for the commission to make a final decision on whether to deny or allow the project.

The document has a staff recommendation to deny a plan by Twin Lakes Canal Company to build a 109-foot-high dam with a 10-megawatt powerhouse. The 362-acre reservoir would provide irrigation water to about 230 farmers and ranchers.

Twin Lakes Canal Company President Clair Bosen said proponents of building the dam remain optimistic despite the denial recommendation.

“That’s just some staff people that have initially denied a portion of it,” he said. “The decision will be made by the commissioners.”

The federal agency cited the potential loss of 4.5 miles of river, 425 acres of wildlife habitat and the scenic Oneida Narrows as among the reasons to reject the project.

“We felt like there were a lot of errors in their decision,” Bosen said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how it all comes out. Certainly we are still positive about it.”

Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United said Bosen was being overly optimistic in believing the commission might go against the staff recommendation.

“The Bear River Narrows, as (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) correctly identified, is a unique resource that is treasured by the local community,” he said. “I don’t think the commission is going to overturn the staff on this.”

Bosen said the reservoir would allow farmers and ranchers to get more water to grow more valuable crops, including potatoes, bringing in millions of dollars of additional income. He said the reservoir would also provide recreation.

Twin Lakes Canal Company in comments on the draft environmental impact statement released in September said federal officials were wrong in saying there was no mitigation possible for the loss of wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities caused by building the reservoir, and said unsubstantiated statements should be removed from the final environmental impact statement.

Federal officials rejected that request in the 412-page document that has about another 100 pages of additional information. Officials wrote that the company “has not provided any new information on how the adversely affected resources could be mitigated that would alter our analysis or demonstrate that our analysis is flawed.”

It’s not clear when the commission will make a final decision on the project.

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