Consumer Owned Utilities Urge Governor Brown to Collaborate for Affordable Power and Salmon Sustainability

February 01, 2021

The Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) are a key part of the Northwest’s energy solution to deliver reliable, clean, and affordable power. Each year the dams generate enough energy to power over 800,000 homes and provide much needed energy to the Northwest during peak times when intermittent resources like wind and solar are unavailable. The dams are on track to achieve standards of 96% survival rate for young spring chinook and steelhead migrating downstream and 93% survival rate for summer-migrating fish.

In October, Governor Brown committed to participate in a four-state process with Washington, Idaho, and Montana to define a collaborative framework to restore a healthy salmon population without adversely impacting affordable electricity and local economies. Unfortunately, the Governor’s decision to collaborate with the other states was short-lived. 

In November, the Governor directed the State of Oregon to file a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violations of the Endangered Species Act. Ironically, a recent environmental study that examined the potential impacts of fish and wildlife from proposed hydroelectric operations found the LSRD consistent with the Endangered Species Act. In short, the Governor disagreed with the findings and appears ready to go to court.

The Governor’s decision undermines the four-state process she agreed to participate in, and puts the reliability of Northwest hydropower in jeopardy. Salem Electric, along with the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Oregon People’s Utility District Association, and Oregon Municipal Electric Utilities Association respectfully urge the Governor to reconsider her lawsuit and come back to the table for the good of Oregon and the region. 

Environmental and Financial Impacts of Breaching the Lower Snake River Dams

Increase in CO2 emissions:  2.0 to 2.6 million metric tons — every year. 
Cost to breach the dams:  $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion.
Cost to replace lower Snake River dams’ energy with natural gas:  $274 million to $372 million per year.   
Lower Snake River dam facts provided by the Bonneville Power Administration. For more details visit


Fish Ladder at Lower Granite Dam
Fish ladder at Lower Granite Dam, Washington