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Hydropower is a renewable energy resource created by the energy of falling water. 


Gravity forces water to flow through specially equipped hydroelectric dams to produce carbon-free and inexpensive electricity that provides the Northwest with nearly 90% of its renewable energy. In 2020, the 31 Federal Columbia River Power System dams located around the Pacific Northwest generated 7,482 average annual megawatts. But when working at full capacity, the dams have the ability to generate up to 22,442 megawatts. That’s enough to power up to 10 Seattle-sized cities.


Because dams do not produce carbon emissions when generating electricity, the abundance of hydropower makes the region’s power system the cleanest in the United States and prevents 50 million metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.

The Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) comprises 31 hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin, including the four Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) which have fueled the region’s economic growth for more than 70 years.  

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) own and operate the federal projects.  The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) markets the power generated by the projects and distributes it through its transmission system. 

Together, these three agencies are referred to as the Action Agencies.


Click here to learn more about hydropower's many benefits!


PNW Hydro by the Numbers

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At Inland Power, we urge everyone to support hydropower projects in the Pacific Northwest. Right now, the four lower Snake River dams dominate conversations at your co-op and across the hydropower industry. Some groups think the dams should be breached. We know that hydro keeps our area’s power carbon-free, affordable, and reliable. We especially believe in the importance of carbon-free hydro to fight climate change to protect salmon, the iconic fish of the Northwest. Inland Power is committed to being part of the solution for science-backed advocacy efforts in support of the lower Snake River dams and salmon, too.

Lower Snake River Dams

Why is there so much talk about the four lower Snake River Dams? We’re glad you asked! At Inland Power, we purchase our electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and that power is generated by hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River basin.


The Snake River is the largest tributary of the Columbia River. The lower Snake River dams, commonly referred to as the LSRD, are four productive hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River, all located in Washington state. All four produce affordable, reliable, carbon-free power.


Recently, some groups have suggested removing the dams on the lower Snake to aid declining salmon populations. We love salmon as a symbol of all things wild and free, we respect their significance to Tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest and we support re-population efforts on their behalf. Unfortunately, though, removing the dams isn’t the silver bullet for salmon.

A changing planet is the biggest threat to salmon, especially warming ocean temperatures. Did you know that Snake River salmon spend about 80% of their lives in the ocean? They run from their birthplace in the Idaho mountains all the way out to the Pacific Ocean and back again in their quest to reproduce! Yes, they encounter dams along the way. But fish ladder technology and billions of dollars in fisheries research and support have allowed salmon to navigate the dams with success rates very similar to those of salmon in free-flowing rivers.

Unfortunately, many populations of salmon have declined sharply over the last 150 years along the entire Pacific coast of North America. Commercial overfishing and habitat loss reduced their numbers to near-extinction levels before the first federal dam on the Columbia River was completed in 1938. There is a lot of research about this iconic fish and the many environmental impacts on them. Links to resources, including peer-reviewed scientific research, are located at the bottom of this page.

The Bottom Line

  • Warming, acidifying ocean temperatures pose the greatest threat of extinction to salmon.

  • Hydroelectricity is a critical carbon-free resource to fighting climate change.

  • Billions of dollars have been invested in habitat restoration and dam improvements to protect salmon.

  • The latest fish passage technology at dams has helped Columbia and Snake River salmon survive at rates comparable to a free-flowing river.

  • Significant increases in returning adult salmon numbers have occurred since the dams were first constructed.

  • Salmon populations have been declining for the last 150 years.

  • Hydroelectric dams are an easy target, but rivers without dams are seeing the same salmon declines.

  • The latest science points to warming oceans and a shift in predator/prey relationships as the real driver in these declines.

  • Major upgrades to the lower Columbia and Snake river dams have led to a survival rate past each dam of 93% to 99%, depending on the fish species.

  • Dams help reduce carbon emissions and reservoirs keep river temperatures lower – both of which benefit salmon.


The proposed breaching of these four Snake River dams would eliminate a total generating capacity of 3,033 Megawatts of carbon-free, renewable energy. Source: Bonneville Power Administration



2020 CRSO EIS Process

Northwest Hydroelectricity Info

Regional Power Supply & Resource Adequacy

History of Salmon & Hydro


Investments in Salmon Recovery

Southern Resident Orcas

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Other Resources

Bonneville Power Administration
BPA and its partners operate the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). Financed through the rates of northwest electric customers, BPA markets electricity, and works to protect and enhance environmental, fish and wildlife values while keeping electric infrastructure maintained and reliable.

Columbia River DART (Data Access in Real-Time)
Purpose is to provide accurate anadromous juvenile and adult fish counts at the Columbia and Snake River dams.

NW Power and Conservation Council
To ensure, with public participation, an affordable and reliable energy system while enhancing fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin. Was the original creator of, and every five years amends, the Federal Columbia River Power System’s Fish and Wildlife Program.

The Federal Caucus
Ten federal agencies working for endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin. Their website offers current and historic information on the work of the Caucus to recover ESA-Listed Columbia/Snake River Basin salmon and steelhead.

US Army Corps of Engineers
Seeks to ensure that USACE owned and operated dams do not present unacceptable risks to people, property, or the environment, with the emphasis on people. Northwest focus on flood risk management, dam safety, dredging for navigation, and river recreation.

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