Fall River Rural Electrical Cooperative secured a Class for construction
By Joyce Edlefsen
ST. ANTHONY —- Fall River Rural Electrical Cooperative secured a Class 2 permit to allow construction of a 3.3 megawatt power plant on the southeastern side of the Chester Dam, on the Henry’s Fork.
The OK came on the condition that when the project is completed that the access to the site is adequate for the safety and welfare of the public.
The access road into the hydroproject was the focus of the P&Z Commission’s discussion.
A history of the project shows its developers, designers and partners.
Brent Smith of Symbiotics in Rigby first applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit to build the project in 2001 at the dam and property owned by Fremont Madison Irrigation District in St. Anthony.
After years of design work meetings, an environmental assessment, consultation with other agencies and, finally, a settlement agreement among numerous interested parties the project received a federal license to proceed. Access to the site was not considered as a part of the federal licensing process.
Late in 2008 Fall River Electric Cooperative and Fremont Madison Irrigation District entered into a long term partnership. Ground was ceremoniously broken for the project, and Sunrise Engineering of Draper, Utah, was hired to start the work.
The developers secured a Class I permit to begin excavating work, and an underground power line already has been installed on the east side of the Cross Cut Canal into the construction site.
Smith said approval of the project was contingent on the developer providing public facilities, including two boat docks and restrooms at the site, which previously had rudimentary take out and put-in sites for boats and a small parking area.
The original Chester Dam was built to divert water into irrigation canals. Two canals draw smaller Last Chance Canal is located on the northwestern end of the damn, and the larger, Cross cut Canal is on the opposite side. Fish screens will be installed on each canal, with funding from several nonprofit groups and agencies.
As part of the project, the headworks of the Cross Cut Canal will be rebuilt, and part of the canal will be moved. A concrete bridge will replace a wooden bridge providing access across the canal to a parking area and a boat ramp.
The other boat ramp w111 be downstream from the dam.
Smith said the federal license required the recreational amenities as part of the project. P&Z Commission members and staff expressed concern about the access into the site, and whether it would be available to the public.
"My primary concern is access to a public facility,” Planning and Building Administrator Kurt Hibbard said.
A section of the road is owned by the irrigation district outright, and on the rest, the district has easements The county does not own or maintain the road into the dam.
It’s a narrow road with little room for vehicles to pass in the summer and no room to pass in the winter. The first section of the road parallels the Cross Cut Canal, Then the road crosses the canal on a concrete bridge and runs along a narrow strip of land between the canal and the Henry’s Fork.
Public access has been granted for the site for several years. A sign on the property explains who granted the access, who helped secure it and how visitors should behave to continue to have the access.
Hibbert told the P&Z panel the members should consider the Class 2 application and the access for recreation as two separate issues.
"There is no question about their meeting the land use provision,” he said.
"We should have no concerns about the access until use expands,” he said. "We should work on these one at a time.’
That’s what the P&Z did.
The commission voted to approve the project under the condition the project Owners prove the public safety and welfare is considered concerning the access road.