Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

In this space, I have expressed skepticism about the political process and gamesmanship involving efforts to breach the four lower Snake River dams, an integral part of the Federal Columbia River Power System. However, I recently was encouraged by the commonsense and objectivity Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) displayed.

In late 2021, the two commissioned a federal-state process to examine if there are reasonably available means to replace the lower Snake River dams’ benefits. Because the dams contribute a critical energy source for Oregon electric co-ops, we actively participated in their process. Outside experts commissioned several studies to assist Inslee and Murray in their decision-making.

After an extensive review of their process, Inslee and Murray concluded breaching the dams is “not a feasible option in the near term.” Furthermore, they were adamant that “… the replacement and mitigation of the benefits must be pursued before decommissioning and breaching.”

They also stated, “Key infrastructure, energy and other investments are needed to breach responsibly,” which does not allow for a rapid replacement of these resources.

U.S. Congress would need to authorize and expend an estimated $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 should go toward other pressing needs: repairing roads and bridges and ensuring access to broadband and clean water for American families.

The debate about the lower Snake River dams is far from over. Central Electric Cooperative and other Oregon electric cooperatives continue to constructively engage
in any process to reinforce that breaching the dams would impose a severe rate increase, undermine state climate goals and increase the likelihood of blackouts during extreme weather.

As co-op members, we must ensure policymakers hear our voices on energy policies affecting the ability to deliver affordable, clean, reliable power to 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 working together to make sure we are heard. Visit to sign up.