In a move that will likely worsen America’s energy crisis, the Biden administration is recommending that four dams in the Pacific Northwest should be breached in order to save an endangered species of salmon.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency that manages the protection of endangered species and marine animals, has drafted a report that states at least four dams in the Lower Snake River should be breached.
“Salmon recovery depends on large-scale actions,” stated the NOAA report. “Inaction will result in the catastrophic loss of the majority of Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks.”
Chairperson of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory, has supported the draft, saying that the move was necessary to restore salmon numbers.
“Business as usual will not restore the health and abundance of Pacific Northwest Salmon,” she said. “We need a durable, inclusive and regionally-crafted long-term strategy for the management of the Columbia River Basin.”
The dams in question supply the entire Pacific Northwest with around 3,033 megawatts of electricity and the cost to replace them will be upwards of $20 billion in total – increasing the cost of energy for consumers in the meantime.
“Three thousand and thirty-three megawatts of capacity to the Pacific Northwest would evaporate,” noted David DuByne of Adapt 2030.
“I remember, as a child growing up, hydroelectric was the cell to the green era of my childhood. That was the solution for us earlier, now it’s being rescinded. And where the power going to come from? We’re already having power outages and shortages … and they want to take further amounts of power away.”
The Pacific Northwest is not the only place that may mess with its dams in order to save salmon and the White House is currently considering something similar in Maine.
Four dams on the Maine River are currently under review by the federal government – if the investigation finds that shutting down the dams would be necessary to save the wild Atlantic Salmon in the United States, the government could breach these dams under the Endangered Species Act.
Owned by Brookfield Renewable U.S., which specializes in operating and developing renewable power, is wanting to amend its federal licenses for all four dams, by receiving only one that will come with a 40-year operating license. This would require that the four dams be reviewed, to know the impact they have had on salmon populations.
A review by NOAA could end up with Brookfield being forced to protect wild salmon – which would include breaching at least one of its dams – the company is attempting to make sure that does not happen and they have recently published a $40 million plan for structural modifications.
Nick Bennett, a scientist who works for the National Resources Council of Maine wants the dams to be removed completely, saying that it would open up the rivers for salmon to move freely.
“If we could get those four dams removed, the best big chunk of Atlantic salmon spawning and rearing habitat, which is the Sandy River and its tributaries, would be direct free swim from the ocean,” said Bennett.