Dams are critical for reliable energy grid in
by Rep. DAN NEWHOUSE Newhouse
represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District and serves as
Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.
“Isolated interruptions in electric
service can have catastrophic health and economic
consequences. A robust and reliable electric power system is
therefore not only a basic human necessity but is also
critical to national security and defense.”
It is not often that I agree with
President Biden, but his words declaring an electricity
emergency ring true to all of us in the Pacific Northwest
and across the United States. Americans are facing
record-high energy costs due to a Green New Deal agenda, and
our nation’s electric grid is at risk. Fortunately for our
region, we have an example of reliable, clean, and renewable
energy right here: The Federal Columbia River Power System.
Last week, I was proud to lead a
delegation of Congressional Western Caucus Members from
across the United States on a tour of the Columbia and Snake
Rivers, as well as the Ice Harbor Dam. We learned about the
benefits the dam system provides for Central Washington, our
region, and the nation. In addition to the incredibly
important role the dams play for our state’s economy and
agriculture industry, we learned about the generating
capacity the dams along these powerful rivers have to
provide clean, renewable, and affordable energy for our
homes and businesses.
In Central Washington, we enjoy some
of the lowest electricity costs in the country — even as the
Biden administration’s actions result in grid insecurities
and rising gas prices. The dams along the Columbia and Snake
rivers have contributed greatly to the stability of our
region’s electric grid, which ensures that Washingtonians
enjoy a stable and abundant supply of affordable power. We
even send excess power to states like California, whose
leadership has already dismantled baseload energy resources
in exchange for unreliable intermittent sources like wind
and solar, causing communities to experience energy
shortages and “brown outs.”
Unfortunately, dam-breaching advocates
— including Governor Inslee and Senator Murray — want to
tear them out, arguing that in order to protect native
salmon species, we must eliminate the Pacific Northwest’s
most reliable source of renewable power.
Their conclusion is false. As U.S.
Army Corps scientists, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
researchers, and other local experts demonstrated during our
tour last week, dams and fish can — and do — co-exist. Our
dams have a 96-98% fish passage rate, and the technologies
being deployed at Ice Harbor are serving as a model for
hydropower dams all over the world. In fact, the latest
comprehensive review of the dam system by federal scientists
concluded that breaching the dams would do more harm than
good for our region, and there is no scientific evidence
that removal of the dams would improve salmon recovery.
This week, I introduced the Federal
Columbia Power System Certainty Act to ensure that
operations of the dam system along the Columbia and Snake
Rivers are conducted in accordance with the best available
science as they continue to provide the carbon-free,
baseload energy our state and region depend on.
The impacts of this administration’s
failed energy policies have now, quite literally, resulted
in the declaration of a national emergency, and if we are
going to address our nation’s electricity shortfalls, we
must support and promote hydropower. That support must
include the Columbia and Snake River dam system, which has
the capacity to generate enough electricity to power every
major city in the Pacific Northwest.
Hydroelectric dams play a critical
role in the diverse energy portfolio we need to build a
stable and resilient energy grid. And, as we saw firsthand
on our field tour, Central Washington is embracing an
all-of-the-above energy portfolio that benefits rural
communities, agriculture producers, local economies, and —
importantly — our environment.
I will continue to work in Congress,
through my role as Chairman of the Western Caucus and as a
Member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee,
and alongside the countless leaders and partners throughout
our district to defend our dams and support a robust energy
grid that will meet our nation’s electricity needs.
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