Press Statement

July 12, 2022 Vancouver, WA

Biden Administration’s BPA Study Confirms: Breaching Dams Would Cost Billions, Slow Fight Against Climate Change

BPA Study: Dam Removal Gambles $75 Billion on Emerging Technologies NOAA “Review Draft” Concedes: Dam Removal Doesn’t Guarantee More Salmon

Vancouver, Washington — July 12, 2022 — The Biden Administration
released two documents today regarding the Lower Snake River dams
(LSRD). One is an analysis performed on behalf of the Bonneville Power
Administration (BPA) by E3 that explores cost and environmental impacts in
maintaining grid reliability across multiple scenarios in the event of the
removal of the clean, low-cost electricity produced by the lower Snake River
dams (LSRD). The other is a “Review Draft” released by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with contributions from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Nez Perce Tribe, and State of
Oregon that advocates actions they support to create a “harvestable” amount
of fish.

The study conducted by E3 verifies previous analyses and conclusions by
Northwest RiverPartners including the recently released study by Energy
GPS (press release is here). The E3 and Energy GPS studies demonstrate
that, given existing technologies, there is currently no viable way to remove
the LSRD without burning more fossil fuels or jeopardizing grid reliability.

“According to the report commissioned by the Biden Administration’s BPA
Snake River dam removal would force ratepayers to gamble $75B or an
increase in carbon emissions against technology that is not yet available. We
all want emerging technologies to be viable, but we cannot bet our climate
and the health and safety of our region on something that doesn’t yet exist,”
said Kurt Miller, executive director, Northwest RiverPartners.

“Ratepayers’ bills go up if the dams are breached. The study commissioned
by the Biden Administration BPA says to expect up to a 65% increase in
electricity rates if the LSRD are removed while the region pursues
electrification policies. A future without the LSRD means billions of dollars in
costs for millions of electricity customers across the Northwest,” Miller
continued. “The study confirms the fact these dams are irreplaceable for the
region if we want to meet our emissions reduction objectives and maintain a
reliable grid at an affordable cost.”

The BPA-commissioned analysis looked at four scenarios of managing the
power grid if the dams are breached. Importantly, three of the four scenarios
rely on the deployment of electric generation technologies not yet
commercially available or the continued reliance upon combustion
technologies. Only one scenario examines replacement of LSRD with nonemitting “mature” (currently existing) technologies.

According to the BPA-commissioned analysis, the scenario utilizing nonemitting mature technologies and not allowing any additional combustion
generating assets to come online costs $75B and would result in a 65% rate
increase. The study stated that, “No new combustion case drives
impractically high levels of new renewable energy to meet firm capacity
needs without new firm generation options.”

Oregon and Washington are required to meet state emissions laws and
abide by laws restricting coal and natural gas generation. Without
commercially viable technologies, BPA would be forced into the highest cost

In one of its most significant conclusions, the BPA commissioned report
states, “Even in a best-case scenario, replacement power would cost several
times as much as the lower Snake River dams cost.”

The NOAA document calls, in part, for the near term removal of the LSRD
and developing fish passage at hydroelectric facilities in the Upper Columbia,
including Grand Coulee and Dworshak, that currently block fish access to
historic spawning grounds. The document places an emphasis on ensuring
salmon return to the “last best high-elevation spawning and nursery
habitats,” leaving open the possibility that other hydroelectric facilities should
be removed in order to achieve this outcome. Importantly, the NOAA
document does not say that these actions are required to recover
endangered species under the obligations of the Endangered Species Act
(ESA) but rather to ensure “harvestable” levels of fish.

Regarding the NOAA/USFWS/Nez Perce/State of Oregon document, Miller
continued, “the NOAA review draft was co-written by groups that have
campaigned for years for dam removal. While the draft acknowledges the
challenge of climate change for salmon, their recommendations would make
climate change worse.”

Especially noteworthy from the “Review Draft” on page 18: “Nonetheless, our
lack of precise measures or estimates of the magnitude of the biological
benefit expected from large-scale management actions in no way indicates
that we lack confidence in their efficacy…Some uncertainty surrounding the
exact magnitude of beneficial response of acting does not warrant inaction.”

Miller added, “Climate change is the greatest threat for salmon. The lack of
rigor in their draft makes for a sad day for the science of recovery.”


Contact: Aaron Toso, 253-495-1296,

About Northwest RiverPartners

Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.

We represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. We also proudly represent
farmers, ports, and businesses across the region that support clean energy and
low-carbon transportation.

NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower
system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage
science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and