Do you believe the four lower Snake River (LSR) dams are critically important to the power supply of the Pacific Northwest? Here are facts derived from Bonneville Power Administration and Corps of Engineers data.
The LSR dams operate at just 31 percent of their nameplate capacity providing less than 3 percent of Northwest energy resources. The Northwest now produces 4,616 annual megawatts of surplus power, about 16 percent of total power supply and nearly five times the power produced by the LSR dams.
If these dams were decommissioned today, in 2025 the Northwest would still have surplus power, and expanding wind and solar will add to that surplus. Pacific Northwest wind energy produces twice the amount of power generated by all four LSR dams.
The Corps of Engineers considers 35-45 years a LSR dam turbine’s lifespan. Within 15 years all twenty-four LSR turbines will exceed their useful lives. Three turbines are now being rehabbed for $97 million. Thus, the estimated cost for rehabbing all 24 turbines is $776 million (today’s dollars).
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As more information about costs of the LSR dams accumulates, the issue becomes not whether we can afford to breach these dams, but whether we can afford to keep them.
Linwood Laughy, Kooskia