Northwest RiverPartners Responds to News over Earthjustice Intent to Sue over Columbia River Operations
RiverPartners Disappointed by Groups’ Decision to Move Away from Collaborative Efforts
Oct 23, 2020 – On October 22, Earthjustice, on behalf of 11 organizations, filed
a 60-day notice over its intent to sue the federal government over Columbia River
System Operations approved by the recent Record of Decision, and supported
by the NOAA Fisheries and US Department of Fish and Wildlife Biological
Northwest RiverPartners is disappointed that several of the organizations listed in
the notice of intent to sue are groups that had previously called for regional
collaboration for the purpose of avoiding endless litigation. Further, this move
seems to cast doubt on the good faith nature of the work envisioned by the
Northwest governors’ recently announced four-state agreement on salmon
That agreement was predicated on the belief that collaboration could only be
achieved through a holistic approach that examines hydropower, habitat, harvest,
The groups that filed their notice to sue have made it clear they believe the only
way to restore struggling salmon populations to the Pacific Northwest is dam
While we share their goal of salmon restoration, a slew of new scientific reports
demonstrate that salmon declines are not isolated to any particular river or
system. Instead, salmon face a trans-oceanic problem that is largely the direct
result of climate change. This problem requires a holistic solution.
It is likely that removing or reducing hydroelectric generation will require fossil
fuel replacements, leading to more greenhouse gases. Scientists believe these
greenhouse gases are the driver behind warming, acidifying oceans that are
threatening key salmon populations on a worldwide basis. This threat extends to
pristine rivers without dams. As a result, reducing carbon-free hydroelectricity is a
step in the wrong direction for salmon recovery.
The drive to remove dams also will likely harm the region’s most economically
vulnerable populations. The Northwest has the least expensive clean energy in
the nation, thanks to its abundant hydropower system. A 2020 federal study
showed the cost for removing and replacing the four lower Snake River dams
with alternate energy resources could cost almost $1 billion annually and result in
a jump in an average customer’s electricity bill of 25%.
Studies have shown that historically under-represented and vulnerable
communities spend a much greater share of their income on basic needs, such
as utilities. As a result, dam breaching will create a disproportionate burden for
the people who can least afford it.
We are hopeful the organizations behind the lawsuit will reconsider and move
back to the collaborative process they had previously publicly supported.
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
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