Idaho Dispatch

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Op-Ed: Ditch the Secret Backroom Dam Breaching Deals. Let’s Focus on Common Ground.

By • December 17, 2023

The recent agreement between the Biden Administration and the states of Washington and Oregon and the tribes on dam breaching represents a missed opportunity.

Instead of working together to find common ground, the signatories to the agreement pandered to their political supporters and paid no attention to the REAL impacts dam removal would have on Idahoans.

As Idaho state leaders, we are united in our strong opposition to removing the dams because it would eliminate a clean source of energy (hydropower) that powers the entire region, harm agriculture, and fundamentally change our economy for the worse.

Sustaining healthy salmon and steelhead populations is important. But make no mistake, that is not what this deal does.

The deal that was released to the parties with only weeks to examine is an aspirational document that spends Pacific Northwest ratepayer money with little to no accountability for outcomes in fish populations or energy production. Perhaps what’s worse, the deal contemplates eliminating thousands of megawatts of clean energy while the region is facing an 8,000-megawatt energy deficit in the next decade.

You don’t have to take it from us. Just look at the inland ports, agriculture commodity groups, and local communities that are impacted by the deal. They are opposed to the settlement agreement, and for good reason. Not only were they not included in the process, but they were flatly ignored when they tried to give input.

Additionally, breaching the dams threatens regional economic stability and power system reliability. Without the certainty provided by clean hydropower, the Pacific Northwest would be left with unreliable power sources that simply can’t replace firm, dispatchable power.

Take Portland for example. The region has 7,000 megawatts of intermittent wind power. During the Portland “Heat Dome,” less than 400 megawatts were generated by wind and the region had to go to the market to buy expensive energy sources during peak demand.

We believe the authors of this deal are genuine in their desire to do what they believe is right for constituents. Unfortunately, it appears they only listened to a select few constituents in the region while disregarding many.

A truly inclusive process would have acknowledged that we can provide structural repairs and improvements that benefit fish while simultaneously preserving the region’s critical access to clean hydropower the dams provide.

A better process would have uncovered river operations that would improve fish passage.

A better process would have revealed that the region needs MORE energy production on top of our current baseload.

In fact, a better process still may have even included many of the fish restoration projects contained within the current settlement document.

But as long as the proponents of the agreement include language that suggests we breach clean hydropower, Idaho has no choice but to stand in opposition. We simply can’t afford to let Idaho communities, farmers, and ratepayers suffer.


This Op-Ed was submitted by the office of Governor Brad Little and the office of Lieutenant Governor Scott Bedke. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.

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Tags: Agriculture, Biden Administration, Dam Breaching, Economy, Energy, Fish Passage, Hydropower, Idaho, Indian Tribes, Native American Tribes, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, PNW, Portland, Power, Rivers, Salmon, Steelhead, Washington, Water

9 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Ditch the Secret Backroom Dam Breaching Deals. Let’s Focus on Common Ground.

  1. Well put, Gov. Now I think you should inform the Biden Administration and the governors of Wash. and Ore. that you will be stationing Idaho National Guard troops at the dams to protect them.

  2. Are you all prepared to pay 4x the rate you currently pay for electricity? What will you do when your power goes out while watching the Superbowl? If we follow the California parade of removing dams, we, too, will become third world residents.

  3. Dams also serve as a necessary flood-control mechanism, so vitally important in a desert state like Southern Idaho. Not only that, but the dams provide water during the growing season for Idaho’s farmers.

    Tell Biden that his agreements with other progressives doesn’t extend to Idaho.

  4. This issue certainly gets folks going, on both sides, to be sure. Some of the points that are made by those interested in seeing the dams gone include points made in this article (opinion points with no detail, I might add). What Congressman Simpson and others have to say that is never mentioned by those opposing dam removal is the number of jobs at the port of Lewiston that will be eliminated. That number is seven (7), not a big number by any measure. Does someone have a more accurate number?
    Senator Risch always makes the comparison between the Fraser River in Canada and the Columbia. His comparison is accurate only to the point on the Columbia River where the last 4 dams begin. He states that there’s essentially no difference in the rivers, yet the Fraser has a sustainable population of salmon while the Columbia doesn’t. From what I can put together, data wise, is that every tributary of the Columbia that contains a returning salmon population downstream from the 4 dams in question produce a sustainable population, just like the Fraser.
    What is a sustainable population? It is 1 adult salmon returning upstream for every 3 smolts heading downstream. The ratio for salmon returning from the Pacific to Idaho (meaning those coming up from the Columbia thru the 4 dams in question is 1/2 of an adult salmon the every 3 smolts released. The tributaries downstream from the dams in question all do well with this ratio. Idaho surely does not. What that says to me is that the Idaho salmon run is extinct, for all practical purposes. It’s just a matter of time.
    The mater of electricity seems to be addressed by Congressman Simpson. The 3 dams have the capacity to produce 3,000 megawats but really produce only about 1,100 on any kind of regular basis. According to the Simpson research, the 3,000 megawats can be replaced with what he refers to as a “6 pack” of the new mini-nukes being developed at INL. These can be located at Hanford, a facility already designed to accomodate them.This power generating technology is certainly “cleaner” than anything solar or wind driven.
    Trucking of grain instead of utilizing barges is done most everywhere else that grain is shipped. The loss of business for the barges would likely be handled just as any other business downturn for barges, rail or trucks, which is that those assets (barges, in this case) would be re-assigned to other revenue producing routes.
    The argument is made by those in favor of dam removal concentrates on this, that the earthern portions of those dams is all that would be removed and could be replaced (rebuilt) if necessary. Probably true, at what cost?
    I guess what I appreciate about Congressman Simpson’s point of view is that he, as a U.S. Congressman, must represent the water interests of his constituients in Eastern Idaho. I’ve never heard a word about that issue from anyone in favor of keeping the dams. Is water in Eastern Idaho (over a quarter of a million acre feet) that is essentially wasted today to flush the near extinct smolt population from Idaho back to the Pacific making a difference? Seems not, so why waste so much of Idaho’s precious water resource?
    Yes, gill netting is damaging, and I wish would be curtailed, period. But, the tribes are entitled to their share of the runs, however big or small, by treaty. There have been many years since I moved to Idaho in the mid-70’s where the tribes have forgone their share in order to help preserve the resource. The tribes are solely responsible for the restoration of today’s small coho run, a project that all the best minds in the fisheries business said was impossible.
    Senator Risch’s office blames the tiny runs to Idaho on the conditions in the ocean. Everyone knows that oceanic conditions determine the feed available tof salmon, so there is no argument there. But, and this is interesting, if not important to consider, why don’t the ocean conditions have the same effect on salmon runs on all the other tributaries of the Columbia downstream from these 4 dams? Just a thought, one that, likely for political reasons, goes without being addressed.
    I am grateful that the non-native species that feed on salmon (sea lions and seagulls) are now allowed to be killed, and have been for several years but with less impact on the numbers of returning salmon than had previously been thought would be the case.
    The issue of replacing productive farmland has been addressed by Congressman Simpson as well. Paying farmers not to plant is certainlfy nothing new. Neither are providing very expensive conservation easments or setting aside more ground as CRP acres. I know that doesn’t replace the emotional part of the farming component, but it certainlfy can solve the financial one.
    Anyone, just something to chew on rather than merely reading the same old, same old from folks that possibly have a possibly overblown perception of what the damn removal would possibly mean.
    I did get a huge kick out of one of the arguments that I heard Friday past on Kevin Miller’s show when he had Brian Brooks on as a guest. The comment was made that the dams should stay because God gave man “dominion” over all the animals on the earth (including salmon, I guess). I know some translations of the Bible use that word, others use the word “stewardship” to describe man’s responsibility to God’s creations. I won’t mention who uttered that opinion.
    And yes, I do believe the Biden Administration should NOT have made this move, stirring the pot further than anyone needs at the present time.
    And to all of you a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  5. We must pay close attention to our own Idaho politician’s actions.
    Will they risk all to protect us?
    Will they cower to globalist/federal demands?
    Pay close attention, vote conservative, flush any Uniparty RINO from Idaho.

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