As dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers come under increasing scrutiny, it is essential to note the positive impact those dams have had on the Northwest.
Inexpensive, reliable, clean, renewable electricity has been essential to growing the region’s economy for more than 70 years. The dams have provided irrigation that is helpful to Columbia Basin farms that feed the world; have allowed for river transportation that carries raw and finished products to the rest of the globe while reducing truck traffic; and have provided industrial and household consumers with relatively cheap power.
In 2017, Clark Public Utilities purchased 63 percent of its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration, meaning that hydroelectricity charges your smartphones and runs your microwave oven and powers your lamps. Bonneville Dam alone generates enough electricity to supply 900,000 homes, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Despite those clear benefits, some environmentalists continue to push for removal of the dams. Activists have advocated for the breaching of four dams along the Snake River; more recently, a pair of Native American tribes have called for the removal of three Columbia River dams — Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day.
The goal, they say, is to support salmon recovery and help dwindling populations of orcas that rely on salmon for food. Indeed, these are worthy goals, and decades of efforts to bolster salmon runs have met with middling success.