Why We Oppose Breaching the Lower Snake River Dams

Information provided by Northwest River Partners (Northwest River Partners' website)

Breaching is Not Beneficial to Salmon

Much of the modeling that shows that dam breaching would benefit salmon is based on the theory of “delayed mortality.”  However, a very recent peer-reviewed study by NOAA Fisheries Science Center shows that the theory that dams cause delayed mortality is erroneous. This finding makes doubtful any predicted benefits from increased spill levels or dam breaching.

Breaching May Cause Regional Blackouts

The Northwest Power & Conservation Council has said that the Northwest may experience energy shortages in as soon as three years due to coal generation retirements. The lower Snake River dams provide enough energy annual to power Seattle. We conclude that it is critical that the dams remain in place if we want to avoid the type of blackouts California is experiencing.

Breaching is Harmful to Our Oceans

report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that, “the ocean has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system,” and warns of the impacts this has on the abundance of marine life and fish populations, especially in coastal areas. The report highlights that increased carbon absorption is causing toxic levels of acidity and warming temperatures. We need the carbon-free electricity that the lower Snake River dams produce to help fight this climate crisis which is threatening our salmon and orcas.

Breaching Reduces Our Ability to Add New Renewables

Hydroelectric dams are critical to our ability to safely add new intermittent renewable resources to the grid in a carbon-free way. With the passage of Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act, the dams are even more critical to our clean energy future.

Breaching is Unfair to the Most Vulnerable Communities

Removing the lower Snake River Dams would unfairly harm the region’s most vulnerable communities. Even studies from lower Snake River dam opponents show that it would cost more to breach the dams and replace them with other renewables. Community-owned utilities would face the highest rate increases. These increases would be harmful to their disproportionately high numbers of low-income and underserved people.

Breaching is Not Consistent with Social Justice Goals

There is an important social justice component to preventing dam breaching. Breaching the lower Snake River dams would be especially harmful to Latino communities in eastern Washington that depend on agricultural jobs, which are made possible by the irrigation and barging provided by the lower Snake River dams.

Breaching Ignores Technological Improvements

Major technological improvements to the lower Snake River dams have meant that fish passage past the dams is comparable to free-flowing rivers. Peer-reviewed science shows that the fish passage through the lower Snake and Columbia rivers is as good as the free-flowing Frasier River in Canada.

Breaching is Bad for Farmers & Food

Much of the Northwest’s (and the world’s) food comes from the eastern parts of the region. The lower Snake River dams provide important irrigation and the ability to barge food to downstream ports. The Columbia River is the nation’s number one wheat export gateway and number two for corn and soybean exports, and it accounts for the transport of billions of dollars of exports annually.