Citing their importance to system reliability and resource adequacy, the Grays Harbor PUD has offered comments on a state report concerning the Lower Snake River Dams.

The report was the result of a state funded, $750,000 study into the feasibility of maintaining the four Lower Snake River Dams.  As sections of the report called into question the dam’s value in terms of the regions power system and costs of maintenance, the PUD jumped to their defense with a response backed by scientific reports from NOAA Fisheries, the Public Power Council, the Bonneville Power Administration and other agencies.

“With production of over 1000 average megawatts of clean and reliable energy (enough energy to power roughly 800,000 homes), the dams have been identified by the Bonneville Power Administration as a key component of the FCRPS (Federal Columbia River Power System) mission of supporting peak power generation,” the PUD response stated.

In terms of timing, the utility response highlighted the retirement of coal generated power facilities in Oregon, Montana and Washington and the loss of over 3000 megawatts of energy in the coming years as ample reason to maintain the reliable power generated by the dams.

“Without reliable resources to replace that energy, a growing population and increased energy use in the residential, commercial and transportations sectors, the region faces the possibility of an energy shortfall, similar to the one that struck the West Coast in 2000-2001.  Given that fact, we firmly believe that now is not the time to remove base load resources from the FCRPS.”

The utility comments also touched on the dam’s role in moving the state toward a 100% clean energy portfolio, as required by the passage of last year’s Clean Energy Transformation Act.

“With a goal of 100% clean energy by 2045, the loss of the clean, emission free energy produced by the dams would deal that goal a severe blow and perhaps force the state to seek energy on the market from emitting resources, thereby working against legislation brought about by cooperation and compromise.”

While the state report emphasized that new energy technologies like wind and solar generation may one day be able to fill the void left by the dams removal, the PUD response reminded the authors that new generation has questionable reliability; something hydropower can help to rectify.

“With the clean and reliable energy resources provided by the FCRPS, the energy exists to allow innovation and invention to run its course and for new resources to be perfected and take their place in an integrated energy system that will allow Washington to continue its role as a leader in clean and renewable energy.” 

In addition to energy issues, the PUD response also cited the important role the dams play in the everyday life of residents of southeast Washington, including irrigation for farming, navigation for freight and recreational shipping and recreation for thousands of boaters, fisherman, swimmers and campers.