Aging Dams Pose Challenges for Fish and Feds

Advocates for Northwest salmon say oil leaks have become a chronic problem, another reason to consider decommissioning outdated dams.

The federal government operates 12 hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Bonneville Power lists 41 maintenance projects for this year and next on Corps of Engineers-operated dams, 20 of them considered “high risk” if not funded. 

Bowler says paying for those repairs is a major concern.

“They’re in need of a lot of money to keep the system viable. I’m sure in times ahead, the federal government is not going to just be ponying up a whole bunch of money to keep this system viable without a substantial increase in contributions from the users.”

He says the Obama administration wants to raise the user fees and add a lock fee to boost funds for lock and dam maintenance. But some in Congress see the fees as taxes and don’t support them, while others say the growing costs are a signal to rethink using the Lower Snake River for shipping.

Dam maintenance information is from BPA’s 2010 Integrated Program Review (IPR),