For Immediate Release
April 4, 2018
Joseph Bogaard, executive director, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition
Salmon Extinction or Restoration?
Putting the Lower Snake River Dam Power Replacement Study in context
A new study finds that replacing the energy services of the lower Snake River dams is both feasible and affordable. The estimated price tag to replace the dams’ energy with clean, renewable resources: pennies per day – or a little more than $1 per month for the average Northwest household. (A recent poll finds a clear majority of Washington State voters willing to pay far more – up to $7/month – to restore wild salmon).
This replacement cost does not consider the savings associated with avoiding the long-term capital costs of maintaining the aging dams or not spending money on salmon recovery efforts that aren’t working. Furthermore, the cost may drop considerably thanks to the plunging cost of renewables and fine-tuning the portfolio of energy replacement resources. This groundbreaking study has big implications for Northwest salmon restoration efforts.
“This Power Replacement Study explodes the myth that we can’t have both wild salmon and clean energy. Instead it shows that we can remove these four deadly dams, restore one of our nation’s great salmon rivers and improve the Northwest’s energy system.
Scientists have told us for decades that removing the lower Snake River dams is the most effective – and likely only – way to protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead from extinction. For twenty-five years, our government has wasted public money on convoluted efforts more designed to protect status quo dam operations than the wild salmon and steelhead populations headed toward extinction today.
Federal agencies have spent more than $12 billion on salmon programs in the Columbia Basin in just the past two decades. It is one of our nation’s most expensive endangered species programs, but it has failed to recover even one of the Basin’s thirteen imperiled populations. The government’s costly approach has pushed wild salmon, orca and other fish and wildlife populations closer to extinction and failed our region’s fishing communities and energy consumers.
Law, economics, and justice require us to protect and restore wild salmon facing extinction in the Columbia-Snake Basin. Different – and far more effective – actions are required. The big question: will our efforts moving forward finally meet the needs of wild salmon – or will we remain stuck in the past, with last century’s mindset and technologies? The old way – still being pushed by federal dam agencies – has failed. It has come at high cost, but delivered a low return.
This new report tells us we can and should follow the advice of biologists: remove these four deadly dams to protect an irreplaceable species from extinction. We save the public’s money, create thousands of jobs, strengthen our energy system, and protect the climate.
The 2018 Power Replacement Study findings tell us that removing the lower Snake River dams is a no-brainer – a good and necessary investment in the region’s economy and ecology. The benefits of restoring the lower Snake River and protecting its wild salmon from extinction become even more apparent when one takes a full, fair look at the costs and benefits of dam removal as well as dam retention.
Keeping these dams in place will prove even more costly in the years ahead as these aging projects deteriorate. Replacement of the dams’ worn-out turbines over the next ten years, for example, is predicted to cost at least $1.5 billion. Today’s costs for O&M, sediment management, and lock repairs at the dams all greatly exceed the Army Corps’ past estimates and will continue to rise even higher over time. Dam removal will not only avoid forever these types of escalating costs, but it will deliver tremendous benefits – a restored, resilient river ecosystem and wild salmon and the cultures and jobs they support – that are unachievable by any other means.
For pennies a day, or about $1 a month, we can have the largest river restoration in U.S. history, return 140 miles of free-flowing main stem river and open the gates to more than 5,000 river and stream miles in the most pristine, contiguous, high-elevation salmon habitat remaining in the lower 48.”