LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Diverting attention from Hells Canyon dams?


Reed Burkholder criticized Walt Sivley for his opinion about breaching the lower Snake River Dams.

Walt worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when I started there in the 1970s. His expertise was estimating the cost of projects. Since he retired in the 1980s, he has been an international consultant in that field.

Reed said it would not matter if they took out the dams because Walla Walla gets its electricity from Pacific Power, a subsidiary of Pacific Corp. that owns wind-, gas-, coal- and hydropower-generating facilities. Pacific Corp.'s facilities are not sitting idle waiting for the dams to be breached. They all operate at full capacity whenever possible to make profits for Pacific Corp.

Many private companies buy and sell power with BPA, which distributes it via the Northwest Power Grid.

The grid is like a web of interconnected pipes stretched over parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

If you put electrons in at one point, someone else can take them out at another point.

Power goes into the grid from private, public and federal facilities and it is sold to residential and industrial clients all around the grid by companies like Pacific Power.

A few years ago, Burkholder's group released "Revenue Stream," its analysis of breaching the Snake River dams.

Without asking BPA or other federal agencies operating the dams and recovering salmon, it claimed we the people would benefit about $1.8 billion from breaching the dams.

In 2007, BPA countered that it would cost ratepayers $400 million to $550 million a year to replace the power, or $1.6 billion to $3.8 billion over 10 years. The benefits of the lower Snake River dams go far beyond the 1,022 average megawatts that they generate annually - enough electricity for Seattle.

They also supply almost 3,500 megawatts of capacity to turn on or off quickly to follow moment-to-moment changes in power demand.

Windmills don't turn when the wind does not blow, and coal- and gas-fired plants take time to ramp up or down. Hydropower plants are available 24/7, 365 days per year and can ramp up or down in minutes.

Boise is in the Idaho Power Company grid. Could it be that Burkholder continues to attack the lower Snake River dams to keep the focus off the Hells Canyon dams that block major portions of Idaho's salmon habitat?

John McKern

Walla Walla


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