David takes on goliath
Greater Hells Canyon Council was founded in 1967 (as Hells Canyon Preservation Council). It was the era of Big Dams; Idaho Power was planning to construct the High Mountain Sheep Dam, whose creation would have drowned the wild and magnificent Hells Canyon forever.
When a group of hiking buddies from Idaho Falls learned of the plans to dam Hells Canyon, they formed HCPC to save their beloved retreat. These hiking buddies happened to be nuclear physicists, and they arranged meetings with Idaho Power officials, coming armed with slide rules and detailed questions about the proposed dam—detailed enough that Idaho Power decided to call in their lawyers. (Read a wonderful short history on these first days here.)
HCPC then joined forces with a young lawyer from the Sierra Club, Brock Evans, who filed an injunction with the courts to temporarily hold the dam's construction at bay. To everyone’s surprise, the injunction worked! HCPC and its allies now had some breathing room to carefully consider what they wanted. Stopping the dam was not enough—they had a larger vision for a protected Hells Canyon, wild and free for animals, plants, and recreation.
After years of campaigning in Washington, DC and in Hells Canyon country, HCPC and its allies prevailed. On December 31, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed into law the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act.
Timeline: The Battle to Save Hells Canyon
Click each year to learn more
1964 1967 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1975
The Federal Power Commission (FPC) grants a license to the Pacific Northwest Power Company (PNPC) to build the High Mountain Sheep Dam. Washington Public Power Supply System sues the FPC, arguing that the approval of a privately built dam is against public interest.
The dam was proposed to be built one mile upstream from the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers, and would have flooded both Hells Canyon and the Imnaha Canyon. Historic mock up of the High Mountain Sheep Dam courtesy of The Wallowa County Chieftain.
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