Newhouse in Inslee, Murray: ‘Our communities cannot afford to break through and remove the dams on the Lower Snake River’

WASHINGTON DC –– Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) submitted a public comment to Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray. Lower Snake River Dam Benefit Replacement Project Report highlighting the serious ramifications that failure of these dams would have on the agriculture, transportation, shipping, irrigation, tourism and clean energy sectors of central Washington. His letter also highlights many missing factors in the draft report.

“I have read the report, and while I can comment on every page, it is clear that this draft report has come to the same conclusion that I, along with federal scientists, engineers and fish biologists, have understood for many years now: our communities cannot afford to breach and remove the dams from the Lower Snake River,” wrote Rep. Newhouse.

He continued“The total estimated costs referenced at the end of the report of between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion – which the report says are “low” estimates – are not an achievable burden to impose on taxpayers and to the taxpayers of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, I must continue to emphasize that the operation of the Lower Snake River dams – federal infrastructure – is the responsibility of the entire States Congress States, not a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded process or report without statutory authority.

Representative Newhouse concluded, “Individuals and families in Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest are facing soaring energy costs and a growing risk of power outages. Communities rely on Lower Snake River dams to keep their lights lit, but they have not been consulted. Prior to the release of the final report, I ask that meaningful contributions from taxpayers, including my constituents, be included.”

The deadline for submitting comments on the draft report is 5:00 p.m. PST TODAY, July 11, 2022. Public comments can be submitted online at lsrdoptions.org.

You can read the full letter here and lower.

Governor Inslee and Senator Murray:

I am writing to submit the following comments on the recently released Draft Lower Snake River Dam Benefits Replacement Report. I have read the report, and while I can comment on every page, it is clear that this draft report has come to the same conclusion that I, along with federal scientists, engineers and fish biologists, have understood for many many years: our communities cannot afford to break through and remove the lower dams of the Snake River. This report reiterates the importance of the Lower Snake River dams to our agriculture, transportation, shipping, irrigation, tourism and clean energy sectors. The estimated total costs referenced at the end of the report of between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion – which the report says are “low” estimates – are not an achievable burden to impose on the taxpayers and taxpayers of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. Further, I must continue to emphasize that the operation of the Lower Snake River dams – federal infrastructure – is a matter for the entire United States Congress, not a politically motivated process or report. and funded by taxpayers without statutory authority. As a member of Congress who represents the communities most affected by the Lower Snake River dams, I have included the following comments and urge those factors missing from the project to be included in the final report:

Fish survival rate

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that the U.S. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which forecasts and monitors salmon and rainbow trout returns in the Columbia River, has updated the forecast. of 2022 for the return of sockeye salmon to the river. Forecasts indicate the return of sockeye salmon to the river at 426,000, which is more than double the pre-season forecast. Through June 29, the preliminary count of sockeye salmon at Bonneville Dam was 343,953 fish, which is the highest count to date in the past 10 years.

This recent analysis, conducted by Washington State scientists and researchers, should be included in the final report.

Breach Emissions Mitigation and Elimination Costs

In analyzing the direct costs of dam failure, the draft report summarizes, on page 18 and page 90, the cost estimates and assumptions for failure and removal, as well as other design considerations. cost, including habitat restoration, cultural resource protection and other infrastructure modifications. . What this draft report does not include, however, is an analysis of the emissions estimates associated with the lower Snake River Dam (LSRD) breaching and removal process. Violating and removing the LSRD, which would require heavy equipment and machinery, will undoubtedly release carbon emissions into the air. Given Washington State’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, which the state’s energy providers and industries have taken very seriously, it is crucial that thorough and accurate analysis be included. in the final version of this report. Emissions created as a result of unnecessary dam breaking and removal, and the impact they will have on wildlife, air quality, water quality and other factors, must be taken into account.

energy crisis

On June 6, 2022, President Biden issued an emergency declaration, stating that a current emergency exists “regarding threats to the availability of sufficient electrical generating capacity to meet expected customer demand. “. The statement, in part, reads as follows:

“Multiple factors threaten the ability of the United States to provide sufficient electricity generation to meet expected customer demand. These factors include disruptions in energy markets caused by the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change For example, in some parts of the country, drought conditions coupled with heat waves are simultaneously causing predicted shortages of electricity supply and record demand for electricity. , the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation both warned of short-term electricity reliability issues in their recent summer reliability assessments.

A recent report commissioned by the Public Power Council (PPC), which is also included as a supporting document to these comments, examined the role that the Lower Snake River dams have played in recent extreme events, including including the June 2021 heat dome, recent extreme cold, natural gas supply disruptions, and California power outages in 2020. The study examined the role played by LSRD in these events and revealed that “the conditions are present in PNW for shortage events to potentially escalate into blackouts. This risk is compounded when the hydropower supply is withdrawn from the generating fleet. He goes on to say, “With a power grid that is already prone to shortage events, the removal of LSRD or the implementation of both policies may very well prove to be at a tipping point, pushing the PNW system towards a acute shortage” (pg. 127). Simply put, the timing of this draft report coupled with the current vulnerability of our nation’s electrical grid demonstrates a radically dangerous and disconnected effort driven by ideological and political motives, not the betterment of communities throughout North- western Pacific.

Energy replacement and alternatives

Page 61 makes reference to the changing energy environment and the types of technological advances that could drive the growth of renewable energy sources, including hydrogen technology. Green hydrogen technology is generated by renewable energies, including hydroelectricity. One of the factors limiting the development of hydrogen green energy is the high cost of production. Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest are known for their inexpensive, reliable, carbon-free power generated by hydroelectric dams, including the four lower Snake River dams. Existing hydrogen projects in our region, as well as any future projects considering our region for a potential location, will depend on the availability of hydroelectricity. Some companies that are already in the early stages of developing hydrogen technologies in central Washington depend on the availability of electricity from LSRD. The draft report itself reads: “Adding green hydrogen production at this scale for uses inside and outside of Washington will require a substantial increase in hydrogen production capacity. ‘renewable energy that currently exceeds what is expected to meet existing end uses’. If our region is to remain competitive in renewable energy and remain a desirable site for future industry, it will absolutely need the renewable energy generation capacity provided by LSRD. Breaking and removing these dams could cost central Washington potential jobs, clean energy growth opportunities, and economic revenue. This region has a reputation for attracting the technological industry and developing advances in scientific research, particularly in the energy sector. The breaching and removal of lower dams on the Snake River could have a detrimental effect on this legacy.

People contacted for report

Pages 97-106 of the report include a list of people who were contacted for this draft report. On page 104, the report lists “The Office of Representative Mike Simpson” and includes a member of his staff. No member of my staff has ever been contacted or consulted to provide information for this draft report. Not only is the operation of the Lower Snake River dams under federal jurisdiction, but I am also the federal representative for Washington’s 4th congressional district, which includes two of the four LSRDs. Prior to the release of the final report, my office – along with the entire Congressional delegation representing the Pacific Northwest – should be consulted for comment.

Another group of people not consulted during the preparation of the draft report were the end users themselves: taxpayers. Individuals and families in Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest are facing soaring energy costs and a growing risk of outages. Communities rely on the Lower Snake River dams to keep their lights on, but they have not been consulted. Prior to the release of the final report, I ask that meaningful feedback from taxpayers – including my constituents – be included.

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