In Response to Governor Inslee’s Lower Snake River Dams Draft Report
Draft Report Shows Complexities, Dangers of Dam Breaching
Vancouver, WA, December 20, 2019 – The draft report on the Lower Snake
River Dams Stakeholder Process has been released, revealing complex issues
and highly diverse opinions about the importance of the four lower Snake River
dams (LSRDs) as part of the region’s clean energy future. Northwest
RiverPartners (NWRP) was one of the stakeholders interviewed as part of the
Northwest RiverPartners is a not-for-profit organization that advocates for the
benefits of carbon-free hydroelectricity on behalf of community-owned utilities,
ports, and businesses. The organization’s values include finding equitable
solutions to the climate crisis and using verified science to back policy decisions,
including those aimed at restoring salmon.
“The draft report shows many perspectives, but it remains clear that the four
lower Snake River Dams are critical to the region’s ability to achieve a clean
energy future without the hardships of blackouts,” said Kurt Miller, NWRP
executive director. “Our communities–and especially our disadvantaged
communities–simply cannot afford regional blackouts and spiking energy
The stakeholder input was compiled by a combination of four consulting firms.
Their report does not serve as a policy recommendation.
During the process, NWRP shared its concerns about projected region-wide
electricity shortages and the special significance of the lower Snake River dams
to Tri-Cities, WA, and surrounding areas. The Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco,
and Richland are home to a growing population of almost 300,000, of which over
one-third are communities of color.
“We are pleased that NWRP was able to lend its voice to this process as a
stakeholder and share our views on the key importance dams play in helping to
reverse the negative effects of climate change on oceans and rivers. These are
fundamental issues that must be addressed if we are to recover our iconic orcas
and salmon,” said Miller.
NWRP underscored how the LSRDs help the region safely add other
renewables. The intermittency of wind and solar power requires a back-up that
can adjust to their fluctuations on a second-to-second basis. Hydroelectric dams
fulfill this requirement by holding back water and then releasing it past turbines
In addition, NWRP provided a critique of a recent ECONorthwest analysis that
suggested there was a potential monetary benefit to dam breaching. Most
notably, NWRP pointed out that in its analysis ECONorthwest stated there was
“extreme uncertainty” regarding whether dam breaching would help recover
endangered fish populations.
Significantly, the Washington Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Process
draft report did not provide any new scientific findings that would credibly devalue
the role of the LSRDs.
“Often, policy discussions like these can ignore the practical impacts on
vulnerable communities and on critical infrastructure, “ Miller said. “We were
excited to be able to introduce these topics into the conversation.”
Consistent with these goals, NWRP will submit a third party analytical critique
from energy consulting leader, Energy GPS. The critique will examine the
strengths and weaknesses of the April 2018 study commissioned by the
Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC) and performed by Energy Strategies. The
NWEC-commissioned report purports to show that the LSRDs can be easily and
affordably replaced by wind generation in Montana.
The Energy GPS critique will demonstrate that the NWEC study was thorough
but is based on questionable and dated assumptions that cast doubts on its
conclusions in light of recently announced coal generation retirements.
It is noteworthy that Energy Strategies has updated many of its assumptions in a
more recent analysis performed on behalf of Oregon, Washington, and several
clean energy providers.
Subsequent to the Washington draft report, three workshops will be held in
Clarkston, the Tri-Cities, and Vancouver, where the public can listen to a
presentation and panel discussion to better understand the issues. Written
comments will be accepted through the 24th of January. A survey is also
available to Washington residents now through 5:00 PM on the 24th of January.
The pivotal release of the Draft Columbia River System Operations
Environmental Impact Statement by the federal action agencies is due in
February 2020. This report will analyze the societal, environmental, and
economic costs and benefits of breaching the four lower Snake River dams.
About Northwest RiverPartners
Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We represent most of the not-for-profit, community-owned utilities in the
Northwest. We also represent regional ports and businesses. NWRP is focused
on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower system betters
communities and the natural environment and encourages science-based
solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and thrive.
For press interviews, contact:
Oonagh Morgan Hurst