2015 Year in Review

This was a big year for Idaho Rivers United, a year of many accomplishments, a leadership transition and the organization's 25th birthday. We stopped a new dam proposal on the Bear River of southeast Idaho and continued our work to protect the Wild and Scenic rivers of the Clearwater River basin. We're also making strides in our work to expose the federal government's lies on the lower Snake River and recover wild salmon and steelhead.

While reading the following list of accomplishments, please remember that you are part of the team. These struggles and victories are yours. None of the accomplishments would have happened without your generous financial support and partnership. Thank you, and please consider renewing your membership or giving a year-end gift today.

Boise River runs dry following hydropower plant mishap

In the early hours of Feb. 4 water stopped flowing through the Barber Dam hydropower plant on the Boise River and resulted in a sharp drop of flow in more than 15 miles of the Boise River through Idaho’s capital city. Due to pressure from IRU and others, the dam operator and Ada County have agreed to fund $45,000 in habitat enhancements for the Boise River in the coming year. Click here to read more...

Legislature continues assault on clean water and open space

The winter 2015 Idaho Legislature worked to advance measures designed to nullify federal law protecting clean water while embracing and bolstering federal dams that kill the majority of Idaho’s endangered salmon and steelhead. Starting Feb. 11, the House Resources and Conservation Committee voted to pass on to the full Idaho House a bill designed to open protected rivers to suction dredging. The bill later died in a Senate committee. Later in the session, the Legislature passed a joint memorial declaring the state’s support of all dams and in particular four salmon-killing dams on the lower Snake river. The memorial positions the state in opposition to all dam removals—whether controversial or not. Finally, the Legislature continued its short-sighted pursuit of a state takeover of the 32.5 million acres of federal land in Idaho. IRU opposed all of these measures.

Patagonia launches ad campaign to combat federal propaganda

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia, one of IRU's important partners and the producer of the documentary "DamNation," took aim squarely at the lower Snake River’s four salmon-killing dams in ads released in Washington state newspapers in late April. The ads featured the tagline “Don’t hold back” and encouraged Northwest residents to contact elected officials to correct course and work toward lower Snake River dam removal. Click here to read more...

Public officials tour site of proposed Weiser River dam

On May 4, IRU helped convene legislators, water planners, farmers, property owners, conservationists and recreationists upstream from Weiser, Idaho, to get an in-person look at the free-flowing Weiser River and the site of the largest new dam considered in Idaho in decades. Click here to read more...

IRU director honored with national award

Former IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy was recognized at a New Mexico conference with the River Network’s River Hero Award for his 16 years of leadership at Idaho Rivers United. Sedivy said his recognition was indicative of a strong team and network of river lovers--the members and supporters who are IRU--that are committed to Idaho’s rivers over the long haul. Click here to read more...

IRU files suit to protect Selway Wild and Scenic values

IRU and Lowell, Idaho property owners filed in federal district court May 19 to protect Wild and Scenic values along the Selway River, one of the nation’s first and most prized Wild and Scenic rivers. On July 10 Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill affirmed IRU's position when he granted a preliminary injunction that blocked road access to a state-owned parcel of land in the Selway corridor while the case was considered further. Click here to read more...

Mark Blaiser takes helm at IRU

Following a four-month nationwide search, Boise resident Mark Blaiser was hired to serve as IRU’s new executive director. Blaiser, who has more than 15 years’ experience working in the environmental field and with other non-profits, started June 1. Blaiser succeeds Bill Sedivy, who left IRU after 16 years to pursue other professional goals. Click here to read more...

Sockeye recovery plan fails to address main stem survival

Sockeye salmon are the most endangered of Idaho's endangered wild salmon, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a recovery plan for the species on June 8, roughly a month before sockeye began dying by the hundreds of thousands due to super-hot water in the Snake and Columbia rivers. IRU contended that NOAA's plan places too much long-term dependence on hatchery operations rather than in-river survival improvements needed for species recovery. The plan aims to recover sockeye in 50 to 100 years. Click here to read more...

IRU and allies challenge salmon plan in federal court

IRU and allied organizations returned to federal district court in Portland June 23 to argue that the federal government’s insufficient and misdirected strategies for restoring Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead are illegal. The lawsuit, filed in June 2014, asks Judge Michael Simon to strike down a supplemental salmon plan (called a biological opinion) and force federal agencies to comply fully with Endangered Species Act requirements. Four previous federal salmon plans have been ruled illegal by federal judges. Simon had not yet ruled on the case by year's end. Click here to read more... 

IRU celebrates its 25th birthday

For 25 years the people of IRU have been proving that passion, persistence and citizen involvement make a tangible difference for Idaho’s rivers. A quarter century ago, on July 9, 1990, Idaho Rivers United was born. Click here to read more...

Sockeye salmon die by the hundreds of thousands

Following woeful winter snowfall and hot early summer weather, the Columbia River and its tributaries experienced warming water that, with the help of dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, killed more than a quarter million sockeye salmon that were returning to their natal waters to spawn. Click here to read more...

Clearwater basin Wild and Scenic defense ongoing

Twice in 2015 IRU engaged in court-supervised mediation with the U.S. Forest Service and Nez Perce Tribe to work toward resolution of the ongoing megaloads debacle on Highway 12 in north Idaho. Mediation will continue in 2016. Through this work we continued to make progress and are proud we can point to a Wild and Scenic river corridor that has not been soiled by industrial megaloads. The threat, however, is not completely averted, and we’re working hard to ensure that these special Wild and Scenic rivers are protected forever. Click here to read more...

Arrowrock Dam turns 100

At the time of its construction in 1915, Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River was the largest dam in the world. This year local and federal officials celebrated its 100th birthday while in the background studies were ongoing to raise the dam by up to 74 feet and further inundate the Middle Fork of the Boise. Click here to read more...

Feds recommend denial of Bear River dam

Citing a host of environmental concerns raised by IRU and our allies, the federal government on Oct. 1 recommended denial of an application seeking to build a 109-foot-tall hydroelectric dam on the Bear River in southeast Idaho. This all but sinks the final nail in the coffin for this longstanding bad idea that would inundate one of the most prized free-flowing sections of the Bear River. Click here to read more...

Free the Snake Flotilla brings national attention to lower Snake dams

Paddlers from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond gathered Oct. 3 on Lower Granite Lake where the waters of the Snake River are stilled by Lower Granite Dam. The paddlers unfurled a giant banner proclaiming "FREE THE SNAKE." The resulting media attention and video produced by Patagonia helped achieve widespread attention for this local issue with national significance. Click here to read more...

Forest Service approves mine exploration in Boise headwaters

On Monday, Oct. 5, the U.S. Forest Service issued a Decision Notice authorizing further exploration for the CuMo mining project in the Boise River headwaters. The project involves building up to 10.2 miles of roads, clearing trees for up to 137 drill pads and drilling as many as 259 exploration holes. The purpose is to further delineate an ore body that Canadian mining company CuMo Co. hopes to develop into an open-pit copper, molybdenum and silver mine. IRU and our allies are considering legal options. Click here to read more...

IRU and allies scold Corps commander

In a strongly-worded Oct. 22 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Idaho Rivers United and nine allies scolded the federal agency’s regional director for spreading misinformation about dams on the lower Snake River. “We would hope you also tout an informed citizenry as crucial to democracy and consider it your mandate as a government official—particularly one of your rank and influence—to provide the public with accurate, data-verifiable information,” the letter states. Click here to read more...

IRU and SOS reports challenge alleged benefits of lower Snake dams

A system of outdated dams and locks on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington state is in continued and serious economic decline, according to two reports released in early November by Save Our wild Salmon and Idaho Rivers United. The reports, authored by economist Anthony Jones of Rocky Mountain Econometrics, look at the dams’ two main benefits or services: flat-water transportation and energy production. Click here to read more...

Community plan aims to enhance fish and wildlife habitat

IRU and the Boise River Enhancement Network released a new community-generated plan Nov. 6. The blueprint, two years in the making, aims to enhance fish and wildlife habitat and reduce pollution and flood risk on the Boise River. Click here to read more...

Green stormwater infrastructure makes cents

IRU released a report Nov. 13 that supports the notion that green stormwater treatment options make sense economically, as well as for quality-of-life reasons. The report, “Green Stormwater Infrastructure Economics in the Boise Urban Area,” was authored by Boise-based Conservation Economics Institute. Click here to read more...

IRU files 60-day notice for Clean Water Act infractions

On Dec. 3, IRU filed a 60-day notice of its intent to sue Ada County for ongoing infractions of the federal Clean Water Act. The notice, mailed Dec. 2, charges the county with failing to obtain a Clean Water Act permit to discharge stormwater into the Boise River at Expo Idaho and Les Bois Park. Click here to read more...