As Anchorage leftists try to remove power-generating Eklutna Dam, Northwest lawmakers move to protect Snake River dams from Biden’s bulldozer

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Anchorage Assembly members trying to remove the Eklutna Dam are not seeing much in the way of formal resistance from lawmakers or even the public, at this point.

But in the hydro-rich Northwest states of the Lower 48, Republican members of Congress are proposing legislation to protect the power-generating Lower Snake River dams. They have introduced the “DAMN Act,” which stands for “Defending Against Manipulative Negotiators” Act.

The act was introduced by Republican Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington, Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Cliff Bentz of Oregon, and Russ Fulcher of Idaho. The legislation seeks to bar any federal funding to stop or significantly change the operations of the dams on the Snake River, and blocks implementation of an EarthJustice-promoted project that was announced by the Biden Administration in December, the Columbia Basin Restorative Initiative.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Biden initiative are calling for restoration of salmon runs on the Snake, which provides renewable energy to a three-state region. According to Modern Electric Water Company of Spokane, the lower Snake River dams produce about as much annual energy (1,000 average megawatts) as a large nuclear power plant.

“But they can produce up to three times that amount during periods of high demand. As many as 750,000 homes rely on the carbon-free power generated by the lower Snake River dams,” the company says. “During times of extreme need, the lower Snake River dams can power up to 2.25 million homes.”

Demand will only continue to grow in the Northwest as the Biden Administration’s electric vehicle and electric appliance mandates kick in, forcing more pressure on to a grid that depends on water and turbines.

“We have yet to see an independent engineering, and cost-benefit and fish-benefit analysis, but recent studies concluded that breaching the four lower Snake River dams would cost taxpayers between $10.3 billion and $77 billion,” the company says.

Similarly, the proposal by by the Eklutna tribe in Anchorage, whose membership is about 70, has not seen engineering studies that show that Anchorage will not be starved of power, as well as water. In 2018, Eklutna produced 177,438 megawatt hours of clean energy, enough energy to power more than 24,600 of the 115,028 housing units that are in Anchorage for an entire year.

Allowing the Eklutna to run free has a possibility of damaging critical water pipes that supply water to Anchorage residents and businesses.

The dismantling of the Eklutna Dam will eventually land on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk.

In the Northwest, the dismantling or massive altering of the dams is supported by regional tribes, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a Democrat, and Gov. Tina Kotek of Oregon, also a Democrat. The State of Idaho opposes the proposal.

While the dams have provided renewable energy that helps the economy of the Northwest, they came at a cost for migrating salmon. Now, the states’ economies hang in the balance, as the White House begins its push to dismantle the dams, something the DAMN Act is trying to stall until another administration is in power.

“The deal President Biden brokered with radical environmentalists behind closed doors will forever change the way our river system operates. It will devastate communities in Eastern Washington and across the Pacific Northwest, and it makes commitments on behalf of Congress without engaging with us,” said Rep. Rogers of Eastern Washington. “The administration understands only Congress has the authority to breach our dams. This legislation is how we use that power to make sure that never happens while protecting our region’s way of life from the consequences of this deeply misguided plan.”

The DAMN Act is supported by 10 stakeholders who represent large constituencies that would be directly affected by the removal and operational breaching of the Lower Snake River dams, including the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC), Public Power Council, Inland Power, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, Northwest River Partners, National Association of Wheat Growers, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Washington State Potato Commission, Washington State Dairy Federation, and the Columbia Basin Development League.

“The four lower Snake River dams are critically important to the economy of the Tri-Cities and the entire Pacific Northwest region. Their importance was underscored earlier this month when the Bonneville Power Administration reported record high electricity demand, which could not have been met without the power produced by these dams. Congressman Newhouse has always been a champion of the Snake River dams, and we sincerely thank him for his continued support,” said Karl Dye, president and CEO of TRIDEC.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson said the covert agreement between the Biden administration and hydropower plaintiffs threatens hydropower production and would compromise electric reliability and affordability for millions in the western United States .

The draft settlement of the agreement was made public by lawmakers on Nov. 29, a final environmental impact statement released by the federal government on July 31, 2020, said the preferred alternative was that the four Lower Snake River dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite – remain in place.

Supporting the DAMN Act are grower associations that provide food to the nation, including the National Grain and Feed Association, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Washington State Potato Commission, and the Washington State Dairy Federation, whose CEO brought up another unintended consequence: “Breaching the Lower Snake River Dams will put tens of thousands of trucks on the highways and also crowd railway traffic. This will negatively impact feed and product transportation and dramatically reverse progress in reducing the carbon footprint of our state and nation.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Removing the Eklutna Lake dam is more pure idiocy from a cabal in our society that claims dominion over the US Constitution. There is no provision in the Constitution that provides the right of a small group to effectively destroy decades of work and millions of dollars investment under this false narative of salmon going up Eklutna Creek. All the surveys and all the information published at the time the Eklutna power plant was being planned, constructed, rebuilt, and replaced calls that watershed Eklutna Creek. I don’t know when it became the Eklutna River but it was long after the dam and the power plant were constructed. Requiring thousands of rate payers to be penalized so a few self entitled individuals can be assuaged of their hurt feelings is criminal.

  2. The extreme hypocrisy of the radical greenies is stunning. While shrieking about the absolute necessity of eliminating the use of fossil fuels to provide energy, these Thunbergist ecowarriors seek to prevent or eliminate construction and operation of one of the only renewable energy sources that provides reliable power and makes economic sense.

  3. At a time of looming gas crisis and not enough time to build reliable and firm replacement power, it is lunacy to consider taking down the dam. It would be equally stupid to shut down a coal plant.

    Governor Dunleavy should not accept the recommendation to put some water back in the river!

  4. Removing the dam accomplishes nothing unless the power plant stops using the lake for power generation. Removing the dam removes a large portion of the energy storage volume of the lake. THEN the lake will be quickly drained below the natural outflow elevation by the power plant consumption – drying up the riverbed anyway. Maintaining a continuous flow from the lake outlet (supposedly for red salmon) while continuing power generation would require some tricky fish-pass engineering. Cheapest thing to do would be to supplement the upper reach water through an irrigation canal.

    • Here’s an option:
      An incoming fish ladder rising into a pool at or above the highest lake level. Then intermittently flush the pool into the lake. That takes care of incoming spawners. Maintain a minimum streamflow through a pump station out of the lake powered by carbon offsets paid by carbon emitters. Outmigrating juvenile fish run coincides with maximum reservoir elevation so they can go over the dam through a gravity bypass.

  5. This will raise electric rates and when we import natural gas for Chugach electric then the electric bills will go up more.
    The only thing the dam removal will do is cost the end user more and we will has less capacity.

  6. Anchorage water drinkers must be so heavily fluoridated to not see the dangers ahead that will affect not only them, but all of us. Don’t drink the water people!

  7. There are two remaining proposals for the dam besides just the common sense one of just leaving it alone. The proposal to remove the dam damages everyone including the village. The huge cost of removal and cleaning up the mess it creates is only the beginning. The continued costs of the increase in the rate base for the utility customers and the tax base for the MOA property is on going and non-ending. This is the result of loosing 6% of the cheapest and most efficient energy produced on the railbelt, let alone the loss of 90% of the MOA water supply. The alternate proposal of reducing the electric output of the dam by 10% is just another virtue signaling proposal with long range negative costs for the rate payers and the taxpayers. There is no science indicating that there was ever any salmon runs into the river or Eklutna Lake. The tribitity in the Lake is so high as far back as recorded history through present times that it can not support fish rearing. There are planted fish in the Lake that grown to two and a half inches through the years. They are starving to death. Adding more fish won’t help. The only data suggesting that there were fish runs up the river are from biased and convenient folklore.

  8. And isn’t there something in this whole mess where removal of the dam eventually moves Anchorage electrical rate setting to the Assembly, and away from the RCA? If so, what could possibly go wrong with that?!

    • The Anchorage Assembly doesn’t make agreements in good faith. The Assembly sold ML&P to Chugach including Eklutna Hydro. The minute it becomes a woke issue the Assembly pulls out, leaving Chugach ratepayers having to pay for something no longer there.

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