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Idaho Power files settlement of Hells Canyon relicensing costs

Idaho Power Co. filed a settlement with state regulatory staff and an irrigation association to request about $216 million in hydropower relicensing costs for the Hells Canyon Complex.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will now decide whether the costs are eligible for recovery in the IDACORP Inc. subsidiary's electric rates. Hells Canyon's previous 50-year federal license expired in 2005, and the company has spent more than the requested amount through 2015 seeking a new license. Meanwhile, the complex has been operating under annual licenses.

Idaho Power has been working on relicensing the three-project complex since 1991 but formally filed its application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in July 2003 for a 30-year license renewal that is still pending before the agency. Idaho Power does not expect a decision from FERC until 2021 at the earliest, the PUC said in a press release. Idaho Power expects to continue to spend between $20 million and $30 million annually on the relicensing effort until a new license is issued, the commission said.

The settlement stipulation is between ldaho Power, the commission staff and ldaho lrrigation Pumpers Association lnc. The lndustrial Customers of ldaho Power is also a party in the case. It agreed that the stipulation would move forward under a modified procedure as proposed by the signing parties but did not sign on to the stipulation itself.

PUC spokesman Matt Evans said that under the modified procedure, comments will be received on the tentative settlement but no technical or public hearings would be held in the case. Parties have reserved rights to a hearing if the PUC does not accept the settlement.

While most of the customers served from Hells Canyon are in Idaho, most of the Hells Canyon complex is just over the state line in Oregon, and the split jurisdiction complicates relicensing.