On Snake River, Gov. Brown Chooses Litigation Over Collaboration

In October 2020, governors from Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington agreed to work collaboratively with regional stakeholders to find common ground on a plan to manage the Lower Snake River dams. This is the Oregon Way – coming together on tough issues to achieve lasting change.

On March 4, 2021, only a week after the first meeting of this new collaborative effort, Gov. Kate Brown sued the federal government over its 2020 decision on how to operate the federal hydropower system. This decision is based on an unprecedented 3-year scientific study that examined the potential impacts on fish and wildlife from hydroelectric operations and recommended against removing the dams, which are vital sources of hydroelectric power for consumer-owned electric cooperatives across rural Oregon.

Gov. Brown has advocated for breaching the Lower Snake River dams. We disagree. But we also believe that running to court threatens the regional discussion before it even gets started. Every other Northwest governor wants to put our future in the hands of people in our region who can come together and agree on a permanent solution to managing the river; Gov. Brown wants to put our future in the hands of a judge. In short, she has chosen litigation over collaboration.

Gov. Brown’s position on the Lower Snake River dams is a big step in the wrong direction. The continued operation of these carbon-free hydroelectric dams remains central to meeting our carbon reduction goals while maintaining reliable and affordable electricity rates. If removed, the Snake River dams’ carbon-free power would need to be replaced by fossil fuels, which will only increase our region’s carbon emissions.

In addition, rural Oregon depends on consumer-owned utilities to provide electricity from the federal hydropower system. Losing that power source will increase rates for families and drive up the cost of creating jobs in rural communities, which already face scarce investment.

Benefits of Hydropower in Oregon  

The four Lower Snake River hydroelectric dams are the low cost, carbon-free backbone of Oregon’s power supply and essential to meeting our region’s renewable energy goals. Wind and solar are a growing part of our clean energy system and hydropower from dams works together with them to meet demand and provide reliable carbon-free power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

In the News

Burns Times-Herald | Guest editorial: Governor Brown should collaborate – not litigate (January 27, 2021)

Bend Bulletin | Guest column: Gov. Brown chooses litigation over collaboration (January 29, 2021)

Roseburg News-Review | Guest column: We need to work together on Snake River dam plan (February 21, 2021)

Eugene Register-Guard | Gov. Brown’s lawsuit challenges collaboration (April 1, 2021)

La Grande Observer | My Voice: Gov. Brown makes wrong move on dams (April 1, 2021)

Albany Democrat-HeraldMailbag: Litigation far cry from collaboration (April 14, 2021)

Polk County Itemizer-ObserverGuest column: BOC supports clean, renewable electric power (April 28, 2021)

Press Releases

Statement of Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association on Governor Brown’s Decision to Litigate on Columbia River Systems Operation (March 2021)