C.L. “Butch” Otter, the Governor of Idaho, and Elliott Mainzer, administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, met in Sandpoint, Idaho, in August to commemorate the completion of a nearly $24 million settlement for the impacts of Albeni Falls Dam on wildlife around Lake Pend Oreille.
Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River, the outlet of Lake Pend Oreille, was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1951 and 1955. Bonneville sells the electricity generated at the dam. The dam regulates the levels of the lake and also river flows downstream. Bonneville has an obligation in federal law to mitigate the fish and wildlife impacts of hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin.
“In my view, this agreement is not only good for Idaho, it is also good for people who buy their electricity from utilities supplied by BPA,” Governor Otter said at the August ceremony. “That is because BPA’s payments to Idaho for wildlife mitigation are on schedule to stop in just 10 years, and once that happens, wildlife mitigation with the state of Idaho will no longer add to people’s power bills.”
“This historic agreement, made possible by BPA’s strong partnership with the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, will provide essential wildlife habitat protection for Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding area,” Mainzer said.
Through the settlement, Idaho agrees that all of its interests in dam construction and inundation impacts have been mitigated through prior land purchases with Bonneville. Using Bonneville funding, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game previously acquired 4,224 acres of wildlife habitat in Northern Idaho. Under the new agreement, Bonneville will provide $6.759 million for the long-term stewardship of the land. The funding will be invested by the Idaho Endowment Fund Investment Board (EFIB), and the interest from the investment will provide perpetual funding for care and maintenance of the previously-acquired acres.
To address the dam’s operational impacts on wildlife the settlement provides $12,991,878 for habitat restoration at the Clark Fork and Priest river deltas around Lake Pend Oreille. These projects complement previous restoration actions to improve conditions for fish and wildlife around the lake. Once complete, the projects will restore no less than 2,002 acres of habitat. The care and maintenance funding for the Delta projects will be provided by deposits from Bonneville, totaling $1,144,000, into a stewardship account managed by the EFIB on behalf of the Department of Fish and Game for those purposes.
Over a 10-year period the Department of Fish and Game will implement restoration projects identified and funded in the agreement, and Bonneville will provide administrative funding totaling no less than $3,000,000 during that period to implement the projects.
“This settlement is good for Idaho and good for Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers. It provides funds to finish up needed shoreline remediation projects, and it establishes an annuity account intended to fund the future care and maintenance of Idaho’s mitigated lands,” said Idaho Council Member Bill Booth, who helped bring the parties together and negotiate the agreement. “The agreement resolves Bonneville’s obligation to Idaho for construction, inundation and operation of Albeni Falls Dam, while providing certainty and avoiding protracted legal wrangling.”