Manager’s Message – July 2022

Dam Breaching Doesn't Make Sense

Proposals and political pressure to breach four Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) continues to escalate. These four facilities include Ice Harbor Dam, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite. The four LSRDs extend from Pasco to Pullman, Washington. Collectively, the four dams total just more than 3,000 megawatts of generation capacity and, on average, produce approximately 1,000 MW. That is enough energy for nearly 800,000 average-sized homes!

The 4 LSRDs are part of the Federal Columbia River Power System, the largest source of clean, renewable electricity in the Pacific Northwest. The incredible capability of the FCRPS to produce a tremendous amount of carbon-free power, using dependable hydro as the source, is unmatched. It is this system that United Electric depends on to provide its members with safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

As you are aware, Idaho Rep Mike Simpson has suggested removing the four LSRDs at a cost that exceeds $33 billion to replace the benefits from the four LSRDs. Washington Senator Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee recently released a report specifically focused on dam removal and spending upwards of $27 billion to replace these resources. Neither of these cost estimates would deliver additional power, further reduce carbon emissions or decrease the likelihood of power shortages for power customers in the Northwest.

These initiatives run counter to the federal government’s multi-year Columbia River System Operation Environmental Impact Statement study process, with a Final Record of Decision issued September 28, 2020.

The study considered how removing the LSRDs could cause social and economic changes and ultimately found the LSRDs should remain. Recommendations from the study identified an appropriate balance between environmental concerns and socioeconomic benefits derived from the dams.

The proposals to remove the LSRDs fail to fully reflect the value and benefits clean hydropower provides to the region, including how the system works to integrate other renewable generation resources such as wind and solar. They also do not fully consider the broader and more complex issues around salmon recovery and do not recognize the positive results that have occurred through existing fish mitigation efforts.

United Electric is engaged with regional partners on this issue, and we encourage all members to become aware of potential impacts of dam removal. Please watch our website and social media platforms for ways you can have a voice in preserving and protecting the value of the four LSRDs.

Michael Darrington