Statement from NWRP in Response to Governor Inslee’s Final Draft Report on the Lower Snake River Dams
Report Shows Complexities, Dangers of Dam Breaching
Vancouver, WA, March 13, 2020 — The final draft report on Washington state’s
Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Process has been released, revealing
wide-ranging issues and contentious opinions about the importance of the four
lower Snake River dams (LSRD) as part of the region’s clean energy future.
Regarding the LSRD, Governor Inslee’s report stated, “They have boosted the
economy and local communities in Southeast Washington but have also harmed
tribal and fishing communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.”
We appreciate the different perspectives that were shared in the Governor’s
report. We would respectfully add that the lower Snake River dams have done
more than boost “local communities” in Southeast Washington.
The Northwest Power Pool and other regional energy forecasters agree that the
Northwest is headed for a potential energy shortage or even region-wide
blackouts over the next 1 to 5 years. This risk is driven by the accelerated
retirement of approximately 7,000 megawatts of coal-fueled power plants in the
Northwest over the next decade. (1,000 average megawatts of electricity is
enough to power a city the size of Seattle.)
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement predicts that this heightened risk of
region-wide blackouts would double if the LSRD were lost. It also shows that
replacing the carbon-free attributes of the LSRD would cost $1
billion annually and result in a 25% increase in electricity bills for millions of
customers across the Northwest.
Replacing the dams with natural gas-fueled power plants would cost much less,
but would increase the power grid’s carbon footprint by approximately 10% or 3
million metric tons a year. We now live in a carbon-constrained world, where this
type of outcome is not acceptable.
For these and many other reasons, it is clear that the lower Snake River dams
are critical to the entire Northwest.
We do agree with the report’s conclusion that there are “opportunities for greater
understanding.” In our own experience, we have many shared common interests
with stakeholders on both sides of the LSRD debate.
These interests include improving salmon populations, providing clean,
affordable energy to the region, and improving the lives of people in the
Northwest. We continue to have important conversations with various
stakeholder groups and are always looking for opportunities to find beneficial
We greatly appreciate Gov. Inslee’s leadership in fighting the climate crisis and
welcome further opportunities to collaborate with regional stakeholders. Our goal
is to reach a consensus on the best ways to achieve a clean and equitable
energy future while improving conditions for salmon and Southern Resident
The final draft report from the Washington stakeholder process is valuable in that
it reflects many state-wide perspectives, but we must remember that it did not
fact-check or validate the claims and opinions of those interviewed. It is important
to frame the findings of the report within that context.
The governing process for reviewing the operation of the federally-owned dams
is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which is currently
underway. Governor Inslee plans to submit his report as part of the public
comment period on the NEPA process, which runs through April 13, 2020.
The key body of work in the NEPA process is the Columbia River System
Operations Draft Environmental Impact Statement released on February 28,
2020. With thousands of pages of analysis and scientific study, it represents four
years of input from federal agencies, Native American tribes, and the states of
Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
The DEIS clearly demonstrated that the environmental and societal costs of dam
breaching continue to outweigh the theoretical and potentially modest benefits to
salmon in the Snake River.
About Northwest RiverPartners
Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We serve not-for-profit, community-owned utilities in the Northwest. We also
proudly 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. http://nwriverpartners.org