Federal study suggests not breaching Lower Snake River dams

  • March 4, 2020

The federal government released a draft of an Environmental Impact Study done on the removal of dams on the Snake River.

There has been strong opposition for allowing the dams to remain on the river, however, there has been little scientific information to support that claim. 

One of the main claims is that the dams have made the population of salmon suffer. The EIS points out the survival rate of the salmon through the salmon runs and the dams remain very high. In fact, the survival rate is in the 90th percentile for every dam. The biggest threat to salmon on the river is actually predators. 

Save Family Farming is in support of keeping the dams on the river. The dam system allows for a cost effective and environmentally friendly way for farmers to transport their crops. If farmers started to transport their crops in other means, not only would their costs increase, but the environmental impact would be costly as well. 

“For example, the cost to transport wheat, which accounted for 87 percent of the downbound tonnage on the lower Snake River in 2018, is estimated to increase by $0.07–$0.24/bushel. This is equivalent to an increase of 10 to 33 percent in average transportation costs,” the study says. 

More roads or rail systems would need to be created to accommodate the transportation and that would cause a higher rate of pollution from trains and vehicles. 

The power system alone from the dams is reason enough to keep them. “The lower Snake River projects provide more than 2,000 MW of sustained peaking capabilities during the winter, and a quarter of the federal power system’s current reserves holding capability,” the study says. Removing the dams “would more than double the region’s risk of power shortages compared to the ‘No Action Alternative.’” The study says a significant quantity of replacement resources would be needed to make up for the dams. And, without the resource buildout, the region would see significant black outs at least once every seven years. 

The study says breaching all four dams was not identified as the best route to go “due to the adverse impacts to other resources such as transportation, power reliability and affordability, and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The federal study is up for public comment until April 13. You can make your voice heard here.