While it’s hard to dispute our political process has its challenges, sometimes a bit of common sense emerges and gives us hope.
In late 2021, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray announced a process to examine if there are reasonable means for replacing the benefits provided by the lower Snake River dams.
Because these dams are a critical source of energy for Oregon electric co-ops, we actively participated in this process.
Several studies were commissioned from outside experts to assist Inslee and Murray in their decision-making. These experts confirmed what electric co-ops have been saying for years: If the low-cost, carbon-free lower Snake River dams were breached, customers would experience severe rate shock, regional climate goals would be obliterated and there would be a high likelihood of blackouts because rapid replacement of these resources is technically infeasible.
After extensive review, Inslee and Murray recently released what we consider to be commonsense recommendations. They concluded that while it is technically possible to breach the dams, it is “not a feasible option in the near term.” Furthermore, they were adamant that even before pursuing any breaching option, “the replacement and mitigation of the benefits must be pursued.”
In other words, the U.S. Congress would need to authorize and expend approximately $31 billion to conduct a herculean infrastructure program to replace the benefits of the lower Snake River dams. This staggering expenditure of scarce taxpayer dollars would go a long way toward other pressing needs: repairing roads and bridges, ensuring Americans have access to broadband and delivering clean water to American families.
The debate about the lower Snake River dams is certainly not over. Oregon’s electric cooperatives will continue to engage in any process that affects our members and the reliability of the electric grid. But whether the dams could be replaced is not the right question anymore. Perhaps the better question is, “Knowing what we know, why would we?”
Together, as co-op members, we need to ensure our voices are heard on energy policies that affect not only our ability to deliver affordable, reliable power, but also the communities we call home. Join ORECA-Action’s Voices for Cooperative Power and become part of a growing team of electric cooperative member-advocates in Oregon and across the country who are working together. Sign up today by visiting Voices for Cooperative Power website.
Executive Director Ted Case