A national whitewater interest group has given two potential power developers its "Hydromania Award" for proposing to dam the North Fork of the Payette River.

"Western Power Inc. was the hands-down winner in recognition of the permanent, irreversible damage its project would do to the world-renowned whitewater, the fishery, natural resources and the picturesque scenery of the North Fork," said Risa Callaway, American Whitewater Affiliation executive director.The Gem Irrigation District, backed by J.R. Simplot-owned Western Power, last year received a federal permit to study a hydroelectric project on the North Fork. It would produce 350 megawatts for export out of state.

Environmentalists say the project, one of the largest pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has the potential to consume most of the river's volume in all but a few weeks of the year.