Newly disclosed settlement documents have brought to light the Biden Administration’s potential consideration of removing four lower Snake River dams, prompting scrutiny from officials at Flathead Electric Cooperative. They argue that the prospective decline in hydropower production may result in increased rates for cooperative members.
Katie Pfennings, the community relations manager at Flathead Electric Cooperative, expressed grave concerns about the potential impact on Western Montana residents. The dams in question are situated within the Columbia River basin, accounting for 60-70% of the electrical needs in the Pacific Northwest, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The basin spans 258,000 square miles, with the Hungry Horse Reservoir at its apex.
The contested dams on the Snake River contribute hydropower to electric cooperatives across the Northwest, including those in Western Montana overseen by the Bonneville Power Administration. This administration markets wholesale electrical power from 31 federal dams through the Federal Columbia River Power System. The Columbia River system has been entangled in prolonged litigation, with recent mediation efforts focusing on tribal treaty rights to a sustainable salmon fishery in the basin.