In July, the state of Oregon filed a motion in Federal District Court to force a massive increase in water spilled across the Lower Snake River dams and the Columbia River dams, primarily to benefit salmon recovery on the rivers.
The state filed the motion in opposition to the results of a long-awaited environmental impact study done by the Army Corps of Engineers and others, who recommended the dams be left in place and spills limited. The study results indicate dam removal and massive spills might benefit salmon recovery, but the damage done to the region’s farming, economic viability, and stability of the power grid do not justify what little benefit, if any, the salmon receive.
The court cannot order dam removal. Even so, the court can and has ordered spills in the past, but nowhere near the amount requested by the state in this latest motion. If the state is successful, we likely will see considerable rate increases and blackouts in the future. The state is going back on agreements that said it would not litigate the results of the EIS, but work with stakeholders in the region and neighboring states to find solutions for salmon and power supply, and to limit the damage to the economies that depend on water in these rivers.
In an open letter I signed with other industry leaders, I asked Governor Kate Brown’s administration to reconsider the motion and work together as previously agreed. At a time when we face numerous other challenges—including a pandemic, severe drought, and wildfires—Douglas Electric Cooperative members should not worry about the consequences associated with massive spills and attacks on one of the most reliable and cleanest power generation systems on Earth. Stay tuned for updates.
James K. Brooks