Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell wants to blow up four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River to restore rivers to their natural state.
Federal and state officials with the utility company PacifiCorp all signed an agreement to blow up the dams, claiming that doing so will “restore natural river flow.” Under the terms of the agreement, the four dams must be removed by 2020. Environmentalists describe the proposal as the “most significant dam removal and restoration project ever undertaken.”
Federal authorities claim that the dams must be destroyed to “advance the recovery of its fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s farming and ranching economy.”
PacifiCorp plans to replace the power generated by these dams with wind and solar energy. The company has already informed its customers they’ll have to pay about $200 million to destroy the dams, but federal officials say they need the cooperation of Congress to continue.
Republicans aren’t enthusiastic about the deal.
“The administration’s priorities are crystal clear when the federal government takes more time to study and approve plans for a single dam than it took to send a man to the moon,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee, said in a press statement. “They spend a lot of time focusing on dam removal when they should be prioritizing plans to construct new, multi-purpose water storage.”
Across the country, environmentalists are attempting to replace dams with wind and solar power while attempts to build new American hydropower are largely stalling because of government red tape and environmental opposition. However, studies show that replacing similar zero-carbon dioxide (CO2) sources with green energy would double CO2 emissions by making the electrical grid unreliable. This unreliability would need to be compensated for by building new conventional power plants, which would create more CO2 emissions.
Hydropower from dams is the largest source of non-nuclear carbon dioxide (CO2)-free electricity, accounting for about 6 percent of America’s electricity last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In comparison, wind and solar power accounted for only 4.7 and 0.6 percent of U.S. electricity respectively. This means dams effectively take about 40 million cars worth of pollution off the road.
“Our nation is missing out on cheaper, cleaner and more abundant sources of energy while drought stricken communities grasp for much needed water storage, thanks to the administration’s narrow-mindedness,” Bishop continued. “In the absence of announcements from the administration to move forward on long-delayed water projects, this symbolizes they are more concerned with removing water infrastructure than building it.”
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