Barber Dam

Barber Dam on the Boise River.

Ada County, Idaho, sold its 4.1 MW Barber hydroelectric project and associate dam for $500,000 in as-is condition to a group of local investors, contingent on the buyers getting FERC to approve transfer of the license.

The county commissioners signed off on the deal Aug. 28 with Barber Pool Hydro, a joint effort by Mark Durcan, former CEO of Micron, Ted Sorenson, an Idaho engineer and hydropower expert, and Larry Leasure, founder and CEO of White-Leasure Development. The company was formed in June, according to Idaho Secretary of State records.

In an Aug. 25 news release announcing the deal, the county said the sales agreement has "the twin goals of preserving the Barber Pool Conservation Area and producing green energy."

Barber Pool Hydro estimates that the facility will produce approximately 12,000 MWh of carbon-free energy per year, or about 1.4 aMW.

Sorenson has nearly 40 years of experience in the hydropower industry as an engineer, owner, and operator, including on many projects throughout Idaho using existing water infrastructure. His team would be primarily responsible for overseeing the repair and ongoing operations of the hydro facility.

The sale follows a failed attempt in March at auctioning the dam—with a $1 million minimum bid—that ended when neither of the two bidding groups showed up.

The bidders were Hull Street Energy, a Bethesda, Md.-based energy investor, and Sorenson's firm Sorenson Engineering. Each had put a $100,000 security deposit down earlier in March to reserve a place in the bidding for the dam.

"The sale of Barber Dam to a local group that is committed to conservation underscores the Board of County Commissioner's dedication to best serving the taxpayers of Ada County," said Ada County Board Chair Kendra Kenyon in a statement. "This sale allows us to get out of managing businesses and operations that are not core to the mission of local government."

The dam—owned by Ada County since 1977 and operated by Enel Green Power—has had problems over the last few years, including power outages that have disrupted or stopped the flow of water into the Boise River below it on multiple occasions. According to the Boise Weekly, the state's Department of Water Resources recently fined Ada County $50,000 and ordered fixes after a power failure at the dam cut off the entire flow of the Boise River.

News Editor - Clearing Up

Rick Adair has been with NewsData since 2003, and is news editor for Clearing Up and editor for Water Power West. Previously, he covered environmental and energy issues in the Lake Tahoe area. He has a doctorate in earth sciences.