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If the four Lower Snake River (LSR) dams are breached...

  • Q. What would it cost to replace the power production benefits?
    A. In summary (with details below), LSR dams power output need not be replaced because the Northwest is producing power in surplus of its needs. Moreover, conservation efforts currently taking place in the Northwest replaces the output of one LSR dam each year. Finally, if it is determined that LSR dam electric output MUST be replaced, renewable energy could provide these same power benefits at a cost that raises residential power bills by $1 per month.

    The EFFECTS Electric Power Generation (from FR/EIS Summary February 2002)

    The Columbia River and its tributaries are extensively developed for hydroelectric power, with over 250 Federal and non-Federal dams constructed since the 1930s, including 30 major multi-use facilities built by Federal agencies. These facilities, on average, account for about 60 percent of total regional energy needs and 70 percent of total electric generating capacity. Hydropower generation has kept Pacific Northwest electricity rates low. Surplus hydropower is also an important export. The four lower Snake River dams have a peaking capacity of 3,033 megawatts, which accounts for approximately 5 percent of energy produced in the Pacific Northwest. Bonneville Power Administration distributes and markets hydropower generated by these facilities.
    . . .
    Alternative 4—Dam Breaching
    If the four dams were breached, the four lower Snake River hydropower facilities would no longer be operated or produce hydropower electricity. The loss of this approximately 3,033 megawatts of peaking capacity could require the construction and operation of alternative power sources. Lost hydropower could be replaced by a more expensive form of electric generation, which could result in increased costs of $251 to $291 million per year. The costs involved in replacing this electric power capacity could result in electric rate increases for residences and businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Depending on what facilities are built and how they are funded, residential electrical bills could increase from $1.20 to $6.50 per month. Pacific Northwest aluminum companies, which are extremely large consumers of electricity, could see average monthly increases between $170,000 and $940,000.

    The economic analysis of power impacts was based on the assumption that any new replacement generating facilities would be natural gas-fired combined-cycle combustion (CC) turbine plants. Since hydropower generation releases no air emissions, the replacement of the hydropower generation with thermal-based plants would increase air pollution by over 4 million tons per year (bluefish calculates: 1.66 million tons per year). To see if the effects of Alternative 4 on air pollution could be reduced, a study was done to evaluate a conservation replacement strategy, where thermal generation resources, renewable resources, or conservation could be used to replace the hydropower generation lost with dam breaching. It was determined that conservation and renewable resources could be used to replace the hydropower generation from the four lower Snake River dams and result in no net change in air pollution from the existing conditions.The costs would be similar to, but higher than, the replacement with natural gasfired CC turbine plants. The implementation of conservation/renewables would, however, require considerable government intervention, including subsidies, and implementation long before the dams were breached. The CC plant replacement strategy would require almost no government intervention or subsidies.

    Breaching is reversible, extinction and ecosystem collapse is not.

    The concept of sustainability has been increasingly brought into focus as we have become convinced that all systems on earth are interrelated and that many of today’s problems were the solutions of yesterday. Sustainability is, however, a very old concept. Most American Indian cultures understood the importance of sustainability and sustainable development, living in harmony with all things.

    Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation philosophy commonly credited to the Iroquois Confederacy but practiced by many Native nations. The Seventh Generation philosophy mandated that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendants seven generations into the future. There was a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.

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