Dam Removal Maneuver is Mind-Boggling

Photo portrait of Dave Markham“Foolishness” is the nicest word I can use to describe a recent legal maneuver that could someday make your bills increase. In early January, environmental groups filed an injunction in federal court to require that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers sus­pend improvements at four federally owned dams on the lower Snake River. They want to halt 11 infrastructure projects, including new turbine blades at one dam, so the dams don’t become more valuable and therefore harder to remove. That action could result from an adverse judge’s ruling following an active environmental impact study that’s at least five years from completion.

“Cynical” is another word that comes to mind. That’s how I view such attempts to end­-run the recently launched environ­mental impact study process, itself undertaken by court order. Dam­removal advocates are willing to compromise dam safety and reliability so they can boost their legal position.

At the same time, the state of Oregon is seeking a court order requiring the fed­eral government to spill more water at eight dams—bypassing the turbines—to aid young fish migrating to the ocean. This senseless request ignores scientific evidence that more spill could actually harm fish. During the past 15 ­plus years, changes to flow regimens and improvements to other fish ­passage technologies have produced fish survival rates approaching those of undammed rivers. None of the eight federally owned main stem Columbia hydroelectric projects has a yearly survival rate for chinook salmon below 95.9 percent.

I hope you will join our political grassroots network at www.oreca­action.org so we can keep you informed of related developments, along with other issues affecting the reliability and cost of our service to you. ORECA ­Action membership also gives us a way to seek your help in speaking out on issues. Every day, your voice becomes more important to our ability to protect co­op membership’s best interests.


Dave Markham
President and CEO