Our Power is Water - The Snake River Dams

New Threats to Hydropower

On February 6, 2021, Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho proposed the concept of drafting legislation that would breach the four dams on the lower Snake River. His plan would attempt to stop the seemingly endless court battles over these dams. He also wants to compensate the electricity, river transportation, irrigation and recreation stakeholders through an infrastructure funding billing that could hit President Joe Biden's desk this year.

Benton REA has many questions and serious concerns about the feasibility of the plan and questions the benefit of a plan that would ask taxpayers to spend $34 billion to significantly increase carbon emissions at a time when our region is taking drastic steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about this in your March 2021 Ruralite. A link to the story is  below. We also provided a link to Rep. Simpson's website among other resources on this page.

Benton REA continues to follow Rep. Simpson's proposed plan and will update members through monthly publications and this webpage as more information is available. 

Why Benton REA Supports the Lower Snake River Dams

The Lower Snake River Dams Prevent Blackouts – The lower Snake River dams have already avoided blackouts in my area—the Tri-Cities. Thousands of new homes and businesses will be built here in the next few years. Our economy is growing. Because they can quickly increase energy production, all four lower Snake River dams have never been more important to avoid blackouts with renewable, carbon-free hydroelectricity.

Higher Spill is Expensive and Unproven – Higher spill of water over the dams could increase power rates by 40%, increase carbon emissions and potentially decrease fish survival according to one of the two fish survival models in the joint Record of Decision on the Columbia River System Operation Environmental Impact Statement.

The Dams Make Wind and Solar Energy Possible – Without hydroelectricity to fill in the gaps, the grid cannot take the swings in generation caused by fluctuations in wind and sunshine. The Northwest’s demand for ­electricity is highest in the winter when wind is less prevalent and the sun sets early in the day.

The Dams Meet Washington’s Carbon-Free Goals – Washington state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) commits us to a path of no coal generation by 2025 and 100% clean energy by 2045. Zero carbon emissions are produced during hydropower generation.

The Dams Provide Affordable Electricity – Several independent studies indicate a shortage of electricity generation in the coming years, particularly with the closure of coal plants. The lower Snake River dams are critically needed to avoid a repeat of the 2000-2001 energy crisis that resulted in soaring electricity prices. The draft EIS indicates that replacing lost generation from dam removal with carbon-free resources could result in a 50% increase in power costs. That doesn’t consider the loss of coal generation which will also need to be replaced by carbon-free resources to reach CETA goals. A rise in energy costs would worsen our homeless crisis and mean greater hardships for people already struggling to make ends meet.

The Dams Are Just One Factor in Salmon and Orca Survival – Salmon from the Snake River are only one part of an orca’s diet. Salmon survival rates through these dams are as high as 97%. NOAA Fisheries’ analysis shows Puget Sound Chinook salmon are most important for the Southern Residents. Cleaning the Puget Sound and reducing carbon output would be a better use of time and money in saving our treasured salmon and orca.

The Dams Create Tourism, Recreation, Irrigation and Transportation – The lower Snake River dams provide industries, products, flood control and jobs to Northwest residents.

Facts About the Lower Snake River Dams

With many opinions surfacing about the lower Snake River dams, salmon, orca and the organizations involved in protecting these resources, it can be hard to discern fact from fiction. Here are three informative fact sheets that include sources for their claims about the lower Snake River dams and their impacts on the Northwest way of life.

Resources & More Information

Benton REA is one of many local organizations supporting the lower Snake River dams.  Learn more about these partners by clicking the buttons below. 

The Power of the Northest Dams

The Snake River dams produce enough carbon-free electricity to power the cities of Boise, Spokane and the Tri-Cities combined. 

The Renewable Recipe

Reliable hydropower makes renewables like wind and solar energy possible. 

If you have any comments, questions or concerns about any of the positions held by Benton REA, please contact member services by calling 509-786-8265.