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Avista wants two dams certified as low-impact

From Staff Reports

Avista Corp. wants to certify its two Clark Fork River dams as “low-impact” hydro projects, a designation that would allow the utility to sell renewable energy credits from the dams.

About half of Avista’s electricity comes from the Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams, which generate up to 803 megawatts of power. To certify the dams as low-impact, the utility has to demonstrate that they meet criteria in eight areas, including water quality, river flows and fish passage.

“For many knowledgeable consumers, hydropower raises questions,” according to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, a Maine-based nonprofit that issues the certification.

While dams don’t generate greenhouse gases, they can affect the environment by flooding habitat, degrading water quality, blocking fish movement and altering natural river flows. Through the certification process, institute officials scrutinize dams, determining if negative effects have been minimized or offset.

If Avista gets the certification, it will be able to sell renewable energy credits from the dams on the Chicago Climate Exchange, said Anna Scarlett, a utility spokeswoman. The credits are sold to consumers who want to support environmentally friendly energy production.

Comments on Avista’s application will be accepted through Feb. 9. Visit lowimpacthydro.org for more information.

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