Manager’s Message – September 2022
The Repercussions of Dam Removal
A significant number of people are interested in removing the four lower dams on the Snake River. This movement is especially frightening because the players involved are politicizing something they have not researched well and would have serious consequences if moved upon.
Several primary topics are included in this discussion, including wildlife, carbon emission, economic impact and electric reliability.
One reality not discussed is the massive effort the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) puts forth toward wildlife mitigation. Did you know that between one-fourth and one-third of your wholesale power bill goes directly to fish passage improvement, habitat restoration, hatchery funding and predation control? BPA does not draw attention to the plethora of positive efforts expended toward fish and wildlife, but you should be aware of their priority and offer these insights to those who claim the dams only harm our ecosystems. They’re incorrect.
If the dams are removed, the transportation of goods and materials through the Columbia and Snake River region will default to trucks and/or rail. In either scenario, the net carbon differential between using barging for commerce or alternative methods is enormous. Ironically, Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray from Washington state spearheaded a study to explore the environmental consequences of dam removal. The results stated they failed to consider all environmental impacts. Not to be deterred, they intend to push forward with additional studies to strengthen their positions advocating removal of the dams.
The Columbia River is an economic driver for a major segment of the Pacific Northwest’s employees. Irrigation services, power production, flood control, recreation, domestic water supply and agricultural production factor into the foundation of the region’s economy. Without the dams, these sectors are jeopardized.
Retail power pricing in our region is among the lowest in the nation. This is a result of the engineering masterpiece we know as the Federal Columbia River Power System and the BPA. With the foresight to conceptualize a stable power supply made possible by the dams and with the critically important value of job creation in the face of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt afforded us a gift we should not spurn after decades of benefiting from it.
Not only did the government forge pathways to create one of the most reliable electric generating projects on the planet, but Congress further protected those most vulnerable by creating preference for public utilities. The 1937 Bonneville Project Act specifically declared that preference be provided to consumer-owned utilities.
With a brief overview of the benefits we enjoy due to our power supply and a historical perspective of our forefather’s abilities to position ourselves in a stable energy environment for years to come, why would we seek alternatives that cannot begin to deliver benefits on the scale of our current model?