Hydroelectric dams in the Northwest produce more electricity than any other North American river system. The majority of that hydropower is delivered from the Federal Columbia River Power System, a collaborative operation between Bonneville Power Administration and the generating agencies, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. This system delivers at-cost power to public preference customers across the Northwest.
Today, carbon-free energy and climate friendly policies have become a top priority in the Northwest, and our hydroelectric dams are essential to meeting these goals. Hydroelectric dams are already responsible for roughly half the annual generation in our region – enough to meet Seattle’s annual energy needs sixteen times over – and they are capable of producing even more.
Hydropower also provides great support to solar and wind generation, which have fluctuating electric output. Hydroelectric operators can hold water behind a dam when there is a surplus of solar and wind power. Operators can then release that water into turbines when more power is necessary. This control helps provide critical balance to the grid. In this way, hydropower functions like a giant, clean battery for wind and solar power by storing surplus power (as water) and generating electricity with it when needed.
Support for Carbon-free, Reliable, Low-Cost Hydropower and the Columbia and Snake River Dams
The Columbia River System and Lower Snake River Dams benefit Richland citizens in many ways by providing reliable, low-cost hydroelectric power; irrigation for crops; transportation for goods, recreation for fun and relaxation; and significant contributions to our economic vitality and high quality of life.
Over 86% of the electricity Richland Energy Services provides to customers is generated by hydroelectric dams. Hydropower is a carbon-free, reliable, low-cost source of energy that is in large part responsible for the clean air, water and lands in the Pacific Northwest.
On July 2, 2019, Richland City Council adopted Resolution No. 84-19 supporting the Federal Columbia River Power System and the continued operation of the Lower Snake River Dams. Hydropower generated by the Columbia and Snake River dams help us provide reliable, carbon-free power at the lowest reasonable cost.
The four Lower Snake River Dams are an integral part of keeping electrical costs low and preventing blackouts – especially during peak demands for energy during cold snaps and heat waves.
An Evaluation of the Columbia River System
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration completed a comprehensive analysis to evaluate the impacts of the long-term coordinated water management functions for the operation, maintenance and configuration of the 14 federal dam and reservoir projects that comprise the Columbia River System. The federal agencies released the Columbia River System Operations Draft Environmental Impact Statement (CRSO DEIS) on February 28, 2020, and began a 45-day public comment period that concluded on April 13. The agencies will consider the public comments and issue the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in July 2020. Visit crso.info for more information on the federal process.
After evaluating the potential effects of the six alternatives on flood risk management, water supply, hydropower generation, fish and wildlife, navigation, cultural resources, recreation and other environmental and socioeconomic resources, the Agencies identified a Preferred Alternative that seeks to achieve a reasonable balance of multiple river resource needs and agency mission requirements. The Preferred Alternative is comprised of a suite of operational and structural measures that allow the Agencies to meet the congressionally authorized purposes of the System, the Purpose and Need Statement and objectives of the EIS, including those to benefit fish species listed as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
One of the six alternatives the agencies evaluated included breaching the Lower Snake River Dams. The Preferred Alternative did not recommend dam breaching.
The City of Richland supports the agencies’ recommended Preferred Alternative because it is more beneficial to Richland citizens compared to the other alternatives. It seeks to achieve a reasonable balance of multiple river resource needs and federal agency mission requirements.
Learn more about hydropower from these resources.