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Press Release

Field Hearing Highlights Importance of Snake River Dams, Exposes Environmentalists' Dangerous Agenda

  • WOW Subcommittee

Today, Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Chairman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) hosted a field hearing with House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) titled, "The Northwest at Risk: the Environmentalist’s Effort to Destroy Navigation, Transportation, and Access to Reliable Power." 

"I am pleased to have had the opportunity to hold this important field hearing today," Bentz said. "The benefits the four lower Snake River dams provide to river communities, electric power cooperatives, the economy, and the environment cannot be overstated. Attempts to remove them or operationally decommission them are misguided, and inappropriate. I greatly appreciate Representatives McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse, and Collins for their participation. I look forward to continuing my efforts on this important issue as Chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries."          

"There have been too many back room conversations recently at the highest levels of government focused on tearing out the Lower Snake River dams," McMorris Rodgers said. "What’s worse is that those who rely on them the most — the families, businesses, and farmers in Eastern Washington — have been shut out of the discussion. We changed that with today’s field hearing where the voices of our community were heard loud and clear. Thank you to the Natural Resources Committee and my colleagues for hosting this field hearing and showing the world that we will do whatever it takes to save our dams!"

"The four Lower Snake River Dams are the lifeblood of Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest, and it has been an honor to welcome my Congressional colleagues who recognize the benefits these dams bestow upon our region," Newhouse said. "The facts presented by our expert witnesses today made it overwhelmingly clear that salmon and dams do coexist, and breaching the dams would be devastating to my communities in Central Washington and across the Pacific Northwest. This visit serves as a key reminder that we must not be swayed by the emotional pleas of the ill-informed, but rather embrace the truth, grounded in science in sound policy."


The Ice Harbor Dam is one of several dams located on the Lower Snake River. These dams have the capacity to supply energy during periods of high demand, such as severe heat or a winter cold snap, helping to keep the Northwest power system reliable during emergencies. Ice Harbor is an intricately designed project that includes a hydroelectric powerhouse, a navigation lock, two fish ladders and a juvenile fish bypass facility. Members and staff toured Ice Harbor Dam before the field hearing and heard from some of those most directly impacted by the issues at play. 

These dams play a critical role in reducing emissions; between 50 and 60 million tons of cargo are barged through the river system annually. In 2019, it would have taken 150,784 semitrucks or 39,204 rail cars to move the cargo that was barged on the Snake River.

The Columbia River is the top trade route for wheat, West coast wood, West coast bulk minerals and West coast auto exports. Eleven states export wheat through the river system, and the Columbia/Snake River system accounts for more than 60 percent of all wheat exports. The river system also supports a robust tourism industry in the region. In 2019, 25,000 passengers visited the region on cruise ships and contributed nearly $15 million to the local economy.

The dams have the combined capacity to generate approximately 3,033 megawatts of electricity. Hydropower has the unique capability to begin generation immediately and without requiring a kickstart from an external power source. Hydropower is also the only renewable energy resource capable of providing base load power. Given the intermittent nature of resources like solar and wind, emissions-free hydropower serves as an ideal complement.

Despite the continuous improvements to the lower Snake River dams, litigious activist groups continue to focus on removing these four dams. In 2016, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) estimated replacing the dams would increase power costs by $274 million to $372 million per year. Six years later, BPA commissioned a study by the San Francisco environmental consulting firm Energy + Environmental Economics which says that the cost of replacing the output from these dams would range from $415 million to $860 million per year through 2045.

To learn more and watch the full hearing, click here