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Barber Dam still for sale after bidders no-show auction

Ada County will now decide whether to wait for the COVID-19 crisis to subside in order to hold another auction, or selling directly to an interested party.

BOISE, Idaho — The Barber Dam in Ada County won’t be sold quite yet, after a planned Monday auction saw neither of the prospective bidders for the dam show up.

Hull Street Energy, a Bethesda, Maryland-based energy investor, and Ted Sorenson, project engineer with Idaho’s Sorenson Engineering, had each put a $100,000 security deposit down earlier in March to reserve a place in the bidding for the dam, but no bidder showed on Monday morning to offer a $1 million minimum offer for the structure.

Ada County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Kendra Kenyon said the commission would be considering two different paths after Monday’s failed auction: waiting for the COVID-19 crisis to subside in order to hold another auction, or selling directly to an interested party.

“We’re in a good position,” Kenyon said about selling the dam.

RELATED: Ada County fined $50,000 after Barber Dam malfunction

Ada County went through with the auction in the midst of the pandemic because the commission believed the small number of parties and holding the auction outside would allow for social distancing. Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday issued a 21-day statewide stay-home order that “requires Idaho residents to stay and work from home as much as possible while ensuring all essential services and businesses remain available,” according to the order.

Monday’s auction will stretch the county’s attempts to sell the dam and assorted properties surrounding it even further. Commissioners voted unanimously Dec. 23 to begin the process of selling the dam and some parcels around it. The dam is three miles east of downtown Boise and provides hydroelectric power to Idaho Power, according to Ada County spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan.

RELATED: Ada County Commissioners begin the process of selling Barber Dam

Owned by Ada County since 1977 and operated by Enel Green Power, the dam has had problems over the last few years. Power outages at the site have disrupted or stopped the flow of water into the Boise River below the dam on multiple occasions, according to reporting done by the Boise Weekly. The Idaho Department of Water Resources fined Ada County $50,000 this summer and ordered fixes after a power failure at Barber Dam cut off the entire flow of the Boise River in the early morning hours of Aug. 2.

The county owns the dam because the previous owner failed to pay property taxes.

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