Public officials tour site of ill-concieved Weiser River dam

WEISER, ID — Legislators, water planners, farmers, property owners, conservationists and recreationists met today upstream from Weiser, Idaho, to get a close up look at the free-flowing Weiser River, the Weiser River Trail and the proposed site of the largest new dam considered in Idaho in decades.

Nearly 40 people attended the first Weiser River & Trail Appreciation Day, including Idaho Senators Abby Lee and Bert Brackett and Representatives Ryan Kerby, Donna Pence and Phylis King. 

Three members of the Idaho Water Resource Board, Chairman Roger Chase, Al Barker and Chuck Cuddy, also attended. The Board is the state agency investigating construction of the 282-foot high dam that’s estimated to cost more than $500 million.

The three-hour-tour of the approximately 20-mile-long section of the Weiser River that would be inundated if the dam was built was hosted by the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Weiser River Resource Council, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils, and Friends of the Weiser River Trail. 

The groups all have concerns about damming the river including dam costs, dam safety, impacts to local farmers and ranchers, lost recreation opportunities and impacts to the river ecosystem. 

Liz Paul, Idaho Rivers United Campaign Director, said, “Today was a big success because our guests saw the beautiful river that would be buried under hundreds of feet of water. The riverside is the place to discuss this controversial issue not legislative hearing rooms.”

Marie Kellner, the Idaho Conservation League’s Water Associate, noted that healthy rivers are vitally important to the people of Idaho, and will become more and more important as Idaho’s economy and population develops. “Building a massive dam is a very expensive proposition with major, permanent impacts on the surrounding community,” said Kellner.

State Representative Abby Lee represents the district where the Galloway Dam would be built. Representative Lee acknowledged the complexity of the issue and stated her concern for the residents of her district. “This is a complex issue, and today was a great opportunity to hear from many people in my district,” said Lee. “I’m interested in finding the best solution, one that’s best for the people who live here.”

Idaho Water Resource Board Chairman Roger Chase said, “There are no easy answers. The Board has to consider all of the options to meet Idaho’s water needs, including sacrificing a section of the Weiser River.”

The Weiser River is a 103-mile long tributary of the Snake River, northwest of Boise. 

Officials from the Idaho Department of Water Resources said that current engineering and design studies should be completed in fall, 2015 at which time the Idaho Water Resource Board will share the findings with the public. The Board has already secured a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the construction of a hydropower plant at the dam, and numerous environmental and economic studies would be required if the Board decided to pursue the project.