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Lower Valley Energy  CEO says dam breaching is a serious issue

Although fish ladders and other methods exist, some groups want to breach the lower four dams of the Snake River as it dumps into the Columbia. (Photo by National Park Service)

• Discussion revolves around salmon mitigation

The subject of dam breaching has been the hot topic at Lower Valley Energy (LVE) these days as the area co-op says that secret meetings between the so-called “six sovereigns” is putting their ability to serve their customers at a low rate at risk.

According to LVE CEO Jim Webb, the sovereigns are comprised of four Pacific Northwest tribes along with the states of Oregon and Washington. This group wants to breach the lower four dams on the Snake River where it empties into the Columbia to provide an increased level of migration for salmon.

“Most of our power comes from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), Webb stated in an interview with SVI Media. They operate all of the federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers. We’ve done our best to mitigate and save salmon. But these groups have had secret meetings to come up with a pathway to breaching those four lower dams.”

The idea of this came as a surprise to Webb and LVE.

“I received a text on a Sunday from Jim Webb which is out of character,” said Senator Dan Dockstader. “So I knew this was a serious matter. I try to do things in person in Cheyenne so I suggested we do the same and to [Washington] D.C. and talk to our delegation and anybody else who would listen.”

According to Dockstader, he, Webb and the head of the National Rural Electric Association and the Wyoming Co-op Director, “saddled up” and went to the nation’s capitol.

“Congresswoman Hageman welcomed us. Senator Lummis welcomed us,”  Dockstader continued. “Senator Barrasso was dealing with the after effects of some surgery but he put his support behind us and helped us.”

According to Dockstader, the rate for LVE customers is 5.6 center per kilowatt hour, the lowest in the nation.

Jim Webb grabs the final moments in an underground transport train to visit with U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman as she enters the Capitol.

“It was fun to see Senator Dockstader in action,” Webb said. “He is very well respected and represents our area very well. Those dams are very important to us and what we do and the ability to serve our customers so we’ve been working with others in the northwest to try and shed light on this secret agreement and see what we can do to stop it. In the end, only Congress can approve the breaching of those dams but [the situation is] serious and we’re doing our best to stop it. It could have a big impact on us in terms of our rates and reliability.”

According to Webb, there are 31 dams total and ten of those are used to balance the system as load demands change. “Those four dams are critical to that,” he stated. “We’re doing the best we can and visiting with our delegation was the first step. We take this very seriously.”

Webb is asking members to write to the Wyoming Congressional delegation.

“Voice your opinion,” he said. “In these meetings they also said that they can replace the power of these dams with power provided by those tribes which is solar power. Solar power is great but you can’t call on it when you need it. Those dams back up the power to make things possible. The renewables aren’t quite ready for prime time and you wind up with reliability issues. You can’t just tear things out and say you are going to replace them with renewables. Things need to be done in the proper order.”

Webb also stated that rate payers are already paying to help the salmon.

“We’ve mitigated the salmon and have had great success,” he said. “We’ve had 20-30 percent that we pay goes to goes just for fish mitigation. There are already fish ladders there. We also supplement with barging to make sure the small fish get down to the ocean.”

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