Ada County creates advisory board in response to Barber Dam power outage

In response to a Barber Dam power outage in February that caused the Boise River to drop to a trickle, Ada County has started an Environmental Advisory Board comprising representatives from Boise River and environmental stakeholder organizations to help advise the county on next steps and future environmental projects.

Organizations represented on the board and in attendance at its inaugural meeting on June 24 include: Idaho Fish & Game, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Conservation League, Boise River Enhancement Network, The Freshwater Trust, Trout Unlimited, Barber Valley Neighborhood Association and Fulcrum/Enel Green Power North America (EGP-NA), in addition to staff from several Ada County departments.

At the meeting, Ada County Commissioner Dave Case addressed the group, stating, “The county intends to work in partnership with the groups represented here to resolve what issues we can together. With input from this advisory board, it’s our intent to help fund a project to benefit the river, and we will match whatever Enel [EGP-NA] puts in,” according to a news release.

Barber Dam is owned by Ada County and operated by Enel Green Power North America.

At about 11 p.m. Feb. 3, a power outage shut down the dam, reducing the river’s flow to a trickle. The problem was not discovered until several hours later. With its flow cut off, the river slowly drained away. By approximately 2 p.m. on Feb. 4, the U.S. Geological Survey gauge 11 miles downstream at the Glenwood Bridge registered one of the lowest flows recorded in 40 years, approximately 60 cfs, down from about 300 cfs prior to the incident, according to Idaho Rivers United comments provided to the county at a May 26 public meeting on the dam accident.

Following the public meeting, the county formed the new advisory board.

“The Idaho Conservation League sincerely appreciates the county’s leadership in creating this Environmental Advisory Board. It’s a proactive step and stands to open a productive dialogue about important environmental issues in our community,” said ICL’s Water Associate, Marie Callaway Kellner. “The EAB’s first task is to decide on a Boise River enhancement project. To that end, we’re pleased to see Enel Green Power stepping up to the plate and joining the county in its efforts to create a silver lining out of this winter’s Boise River dewatering.”