BPAs Snake River ‘Con’


The existence of the lower Snake River dams is an epic failure of governance in the Columbia River Basin that is leading to the extinction of salmon, steelhead and Southern Resident Killer Whales (aka orcas).

Your help is needed urgently. The federal government has nearly all the pieces in place to keep the lower Snake River dams up for another decade or two. We need to stop the government’s madness. Without public opposition, the endangered salmon and orcas won’t have a chance at survival.

1.  With the CRSO EIS, the feds have completed their Snake River con.

On July 31, 2020 the federal government announced that the four dams on the Snake River in Washington State would not be breached to help endangered salmon migrate to and from the ocean, despite finding that Snake River dam removal gives salmon the best opportunity to recover.

2.  Right now, under our noses, the behemoth Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is offering bribes to silence NW states and tribes from supporting Snake River dam breaching.

BPA has put $420 million in fish recovery funds on the table. Any entity that accepts the money is prohibited from saying a word against the Snake River dams, even though breaching the dams may be in the best interests of the state’s citizens or tribal members. The contract is known as the Columbia Fish Accords Extension. The new Accords are an extension of recently expired Fish Accords signed by tribes and states in 2008 that committed BPA to pay tribes and the states of Washington, Montana and Idaho a total of $100 million a year for 10 years—or a cool $Billion—for their past silence.

3.  Four Northwest governors currently are discussing whether to accept the new BPA bribes and sign on to the Fish Accords. We need to stop this.

If Washington State signs the Accords, it could be prevented from continuing its Clean Water Act litigation against the federal government to lower water temperatures in the Snake River, litigation that may result in dam breaching.

4.  BPA sticks its ratepayers with the bill for paying the salmon and orca blood money that BPA uses for its bribes.

5.  BPA’s endgame may be to pressure PNW Public Utility Districts and Cooperatives (PUDs/Co-ops) to sign long-term contracts for BPA’s overpriced electricity. Don’t let this happen.

Most of BPA’s long-term energy contracts with PUDs and Co-ops expire in 2028. If BPA cannot renegotiate the contracts, BPA’s very existence could be in question. The reason—in 2009 the bottom began to fall out of the west coast energy market due to the revolution in solar and wind energy, particularly in California. Last year’s open market electricity prices averaged about $19/MWh. This year’s prices look like they will average about $12/MWh. Meanwhile, under the long-term contracts, BPA charges PUDs and Co-ops about $36/MWh, or $24/MWh more than the open market.

BPA’s prices have risen more than 30% in the last 10 years, while most energy markets have falling prices. It simply is not in the best interests of ratepayers to enter into long-term contracts with BPA, with its rising energy rates.


The 1980 Northwest Power Act requires restoration of Snake River salmon. The region has replaced the energy produced by the dams more than 14 times over since 1980.  The Northwest Power & Conservation Council’s Sixth Power Plan states that the region can retire all of its existing coal plants, and remove the four lower Snake River dams, and customer’s monthly power bills will actually decline due to more efficient use of energy. With the dams breached, there are options to make farmers who rely on the dams for irrigation and waterway transportation whole, while saving public dollars. We can build new rail, connect longer irrigation pipes, and install more powerful pumps. We can subsidize farmers for any losses, if needed, for far less than the Snake River dams cost. Without dam removal, there are no options for the endangered fish. They need a free flowing river to survive.

Call to Action—To save Snake River salmon and Southern Resident Orcas from extinction, please contact the folks below.

Governors Jay Inslee (WA), Kate Brown (OR), Brad Little (ID) and Steve Bullock (MT). Tell them NOT to sign the Fish Accords Extension. Tell them the solution to the issues is much less difficult than maintaining the aging dams.  They need to immediately support replacing the services the dams provide to farmers and industry, and breach the dams now. This means at minimum building rail lines, extending irrigation pipes and installing more powerful pumps. The subsidies that farmers may need to be made whole are small potatoes compared to the price of maintaining the Snake River dams. Here is a link to their contact information: srkwcsi.org/take-action/

Residents of the Pacific Northwest—Contact your PUD or electrical Co-op and tell it not to sign expensive new long-term contracts with BPA.  Tell it that the rapid revolution to solar and wind energy means that cheaper energy will be available on the open market for at least the next 20 to 30 years.  PUD or Co-op contact information is available on your monthly bill.  Better yet, if possible, attend a monthly meeting and tell your PUD or Co-op in person (via Zoom meetings, most likely).