TWIN FALLS • Visitors to Shoshone Falls began seeing construction activity above the falls and in Shoshone Falls Park this month — work that complicates park traffic now but eventually will improve the view.
The work is part of Idaho Power’s two-year hydroelectric upgrade.
Among the most noticeable changes this year will be replacement of the gated spillway that is visible from the park, an Idaho Power release said. The spillway is the structure that begins at the south bank and runs about 400 feet north to the first island.
Also, the scenic flow channel constructed last year will redirect water to the north side of the falls to the section commonly referred to as the Bridal Veil — for a better display on the famous falls when flows are low.
The spillway replacement will require installation of low, temporary dam sections above the falls to divert water around the construction area. Visitors will see construction equipment in the river channel in mid-May, Idaho Power spokesman Brad Bowlin said.
Truck traffic will be heavy at times, especially in the boat ramp area, and some parking spaces will be closed.
“Most of the heavy truck traffic ... should be done in the next couple of weeks,” Bowlin said Monday. “They have been moving rocks for a temporary coffer dam, which is mostly in place at this point. Still a bit more to do. And of course, there will still be truck traffic through the duration of the project, but not as heavy. Drivers and park visitors should still take extra caution into and out of the park, especially around the boat ramp parking area.”
Signs at the park and the overlook near the park fee station provide illustrations and details about the work. The project began last summer with removal of several structures and wires on the north side of the river and reconstruction of the powerhouse intake, where water is funneled into Idaho Power’s electrical generating plant.
“These improvements will create a more enjoyable view of Shoshone Falls while we perform necessary maintenance to make Shoshone Falls safer and more economical to operate,” engineering leader Jerrod Vaughn, who is overseeing the project, said in the utility’s release.
Shoshone Falls, 212 feet high, began producing electricity in 1907 and currently has a capacity of 12.5 megawatts. Idaho Power bought the power plant in 1916. Most of the existing infrastructure has been in place since the early 1920s or earlier.