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Governors must demand NPCC follow the science.

A recent letter sent by NWRAP to Northwest Governors is six pages long. The simple message to the governors is short: Tell your representatives on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to follow the science, look at the numbers, use the models, gather the data and show some gumption.

Northwest Resource Accountability Project (NWRAP) representatives seeking to breach four dams on the lower Snake River recently sent a tough-minded, strongly worded letter to the governors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, asking the executives to tell their representatives on the Northwestern Power and Conservation Council to support an analysis of the long-term effects of such action on salmon and electric energy.

They believe they know what that analysis will say: Such action is needed to restore the migration of native fish and there are cheaper and better ways to produce power than hydro dams. The letter from NWRAP was signed by 30 representatives, who were detailed, direct and demanding.

At least have the courtesy to listen to us. Then, DO SOMETHING.

And the NWRAP letter writers have plenty of reasons to ask for a little action from the council. “The Council has not put dam breaching on the table, even though they are charged with recovering salmon in the Snake River,” they wrote. “NWRAP representatives participated in the (recent) meeting, anticipating a discussion by the Council and subsequent opportunity to provide public comments. There was no discussion nor any opportunity to comment.”

The Power Council was created by an act of Congress 40 years ago and charged with producing power and protecting salmon. NWRAP, in its letter, claims the Council was given one year to act and, 40 years later, has failed to do so in any meaningful way:

“The Council steadfastly refuses to run the Re-Developed GENESYS model (a sophisticated analytical tool) for the federal power system absent the four lower Snake River dams, or even identify what changes to the hydro system are necessary to achieve the salmon restoration intent of the act and to ensure a reliable, economical and efficient regional power supply.”

Then the NWRAP letter gets specific, citing a Nez Perce fisheries’ study that 77 percent of the lower Snake River spring-summer Chinook salmon runs will be “quasi-extinct” by 2025; a federal government study pushes the extinction date a few decades later.

In 1995 the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the Power Council guilty of failing to follow the law requiring the protection and restoration of the Snake River salmon, using economic costs as an excuse. Another study by federal agencies, completed in 2020 at a cost of $80 million, said the lower dams must be breached to achieve salmon restoration – and ensure a reliable, economical and efficient regional power supply.

As for the dams, the NWRAP signatories – including representatives from Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Orcas Women’s Coalition and Rocky Mountain Econometrics – contend they’re not economical to maintain, producing a relatively small amount of electricity and selling some of it at a loss on the surplus market.

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