The Center Square: Inslee Predicts ‘Blackouts, Destruction, and Death’ this Summer

Gov. Inslee warns of deaths due to power shortages while proposing to create further power shortages. (photo: Spokeman)

The Center Square published Inslee predicts ‘blackouts, destruction, and death’ this summer on Wednesday. Inslee so predicted because of the possibility of power shortages this summer, but at the same time he supports removing dams which would further reduce power generation.

Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment for the free market Washington Policy Center, thinks Gov. Jay Inslee is being coy about his support for breaching four dams on the lower Snake River.

“Last week, @GovInslee gave implicit support to destroying the Snake River dams and 8% of Washington’s electricity generation. Today he sent an email warning about electricity shortages this summer. #waleg,” Myers tweeted Monday.

This was accompanied by an excerpt of an email from Inslee’s campaign.

“It’s shaping up to be a deadly summer,” the email reads.

“As the climate crisis worsens, we’re facing the most extreme weather in history. While Washington state faced the wettest start to the summer in over 70 years, other states are preparing for sweltering temperatures that will catastrophically disrupt our fragile electrical grid. That means blackouts, destruction, and death. Just look at the headlines.”

Myers’ observation was prompted by Thursday’s release by Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, of a draft report that says breaching the dams would be the best way to remove Snake River salmon runs from the Endangered Species List, in addition to being the best way to maintain treaty and trust obligations with Native American tribes.

According to the report, finding other ways to provide electricity, irrigation, and enabling commerce would cost between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion.

The release of the report kicks off a one-month public comment period running until July 11.

The debate over breaching the federally-owned dams has swirled for decades.

Proponents of removing the dams say doing so would bring back salmon runs to the benefit of sport, commercial, and tribal fishing communities, in addition to helping starving orcas dependent upon salmon as a food source.

Getting rid of the dams would negatively impact the provision of irrigation water for farmers, critics say, in addition to making the river system unnavigable for barges that move crops and other products to port for export. Recreation opportunities for locals and tourists would also be lessened, critics add.

Perhaps the most contentious issue raised by critics of breaching the dams is the negative impact it will have on the generation of electricity. Power grid workers have consistently said the back-up electricity provided by the Snake River dams is essential to preventing power shortages when energy demand is high.

It’s not the first time Inslee has said or done something that seems at odds with making sure Washington’s energy needs can be met.

Earlier this year, Inslee vetoed House Bill 1623 to address the “risk of rolling backouts and power supply inadequacy events,” even though the legislation unanimously passed both chambers of the Legislature.

In his March 31 veto letter to the Legislature, Inslee cited redundancy for his decision.

“Ensuring that our electricity grid continues to reliably provide power to Washingtonians is a priority for me as well, which is why we have multiple state agencies already working on this issue,” Inslee wrote.

The Center Square reached out to Jamie Smith, Inslee’s executive director of communications, regarding Myers’ comments about could be construed as a mixed message from the governor.

“The governor has been consistently clear that he has not made any decision on the question about the dams,” she said via email.

That language is similar to a joint statement released by Murray and Inslee on the draft report.

“We continue to approach the question of breaching with open minds and without a predetermined decision,” they said. “From the start, we have placed public and stakeholder engagement from communities across the Pacific Northwest as the foundation of any regional process.”

Nevertheless, there have been indications Inslee leans toward breaching the Snake River dams.

Earlier this month, Inslee cast doubt on a multi-agency 2020 Environmental Impact Statement on the Snake River dams because it was completed under the administration of former President Donald Trump. The report essentially said dams and fish can coexist.

Last summer, Inslee signaled support for a key plank in Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson’s plan – dam breaching – outlining $33.5 billion in federal spending to remove the four Snake River dams in 2030.

The current draft report is the second such study initiated by the governor’s office on the Snake River dams in the last few years. The results of a 2019 study failed to deliver a clear result.

WA State Wire: Solving the Snake River Dams Debate; It’s Harder Than You Think

Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners which advocates in favor of hydropower, in this Op-Ed discusses why the Snake River dam issue is so difficult to resolve. The battle continues between those who want to remove the dams in a last ditch effort to save declining salmon and orca populations and those who argue that removing the dams will lead to regional power shortages, the loss of 37,000 acres of irrigated farmland, and the loss of barging for transportation of one million acres of wheat.

…Resolving salmon declines is a complicated and challenging task. Salmon cross many dynamic ecosystems, oceans and rivers are constantly in flux, and salmon are continuously forced to adapt and evolve.

For scientists, it’s impossible to control for all real-world variations, so we’re often left with assumption-laden models and anecdotes instead of evidence.

Consequently, hydroelectric supporters and dam breaching advocates both point to science to support their claims, but the picture is often incomplete.

We know the stakes are high, which makes compromise so difficult.

The dam advocate perspective:

Climate Crisis – Governor Jay Inslee described climate change as the “existential threat of our time.” It’s just as serious for salmon. NOAA Fisheries researcher Lisa Crozier has noted, “an almost synchronous decline” in worldwide salmon populations due to climate change. Given this context, removing carbon-free hydroelectric dams is a mistake.

Clean Energy Future – Hydroelectric dams provide roughly 80% of the region’s carbon-free electricity. They also help us safely add new intermittent renewables–like wind and solar–to the grid by filling in the gaps left by wind and sunshine. We need the lower Snake River dams to achieve our clean energy goals.

Regional BlackoutsWith thousands of megawatts of coal generation being shuttered, regional utility leaders have warned that the Northwest already faces a serious risk of blackouts. Without the dams, the threat would be amplified.

Energy EquityVulnerable communities rely on the lower Snake River dams for affordable, clean energy. Without these dams, many people who can least afford it will face rising power bills, increased pollution, the specter of blackouts, and the loss of an important economic base.

If the dams remain, others fear for Snake River salmon and Southern Resident orcas.

The dam-breaching advocate perspective:

Salmon Extinction – No one knows how long endangered salmon populations can survive before extinction. Given this lack of certainty, we have to act boldly now.

Orca Extinction – Native salmon populations struggle in the Salish Sea, where Southern Resident orcas mostly reside. If the Snake River salmon populations rebound, they could supplement the deficit in the Salish Sea and help the Southern Residents recover.

Nothing Else Has Worked – Northwest utility customers have invested billions in fish and wildlife programs to offset potential harm from dams. While in-river salmon survival has notably improved, too few adult salmon are returning from the ocean. Dam breaching is one of the only things we haven’t tried.

Cultural Significance – Tribal leaders fear the permanent loss of their cultural heritage and identities, should salmon not return in healthy numbers. Salmon are crucial to tribal health, economies, and religions, and the loss of salmon violates treaty rights…

Click here to read the entire article at Washington State Wire.

Dan Newhouse Listening Session – Dams, May 13, 2019

From the office of Rep. Dan Newhouse:

Listening Session: “The Future of Our Dams”


Rep. Newhouse speaks to stakeholders and the public about legislation he introduced in the 115th Congress to preserve the Snake River dams.

I am hosting a public listening session to discuss the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, their effects on Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest, and recent legislative actions affecting the river system. I will be joined by a panel of experts, and you are invited to share your thoughts and ask questions about the dams, hydropower, salmon mitigation, and other related topics.

Date: Monday, May 13
Time: 5:30PM – 7:00PM PST
Location: Richland Federal Building Auditorium, 825 Jadwin Avenue, Richland, WA

Click here for more details.

This event is intended for constituents of the 4th Congressional District. Seating is limited, and constituents will be given priority seating. Check-in for the event will begin at 5:00PM. To facilitate the check-in process, constituents are strongly encouraged to pre-register for the event online. Pre-registration is not required and does not guarantee admission; it is solely to speed the check-in process for the evening of the event.

Please note: The Richland Federal Building requires photo ID for entrance. No food or drink is allowed in the auditorium.