The Power of Your Voice
Last month, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) celebrated its 65th birthday. Contrary to popular belief, I have not worked at WREC for quite that long, but I have been here long enough to say with confidence that we have always proven the slogan “More Powerful Together” to be true.
In the beginning, a group of farmers and ranchers came together to secure funding to form a cooperative to build the power lines for electricity they desperately needed. More recently, we’ve asked you, our members, to act on legislative and regulatory issues with potentially dire consequences. For several months, we’ve asked you to send letters to our federal representatives. Hundreds of members have responded to that call. Here’s an update on the effectiveness of your efforts.
We rarely ask for such participation but, in this case, we think it’s warranted. After an exhaustive, comprehensive Congressional process involving all major stakeholders determined that removing the Lower Snake River dams was not feasible at this time, we were hopeful the matter was settled for the foreseeable future after 2-plus decades of litigation over fish populations. It was not.
The Biden Administration has started a process of its own that has focused solely and completely on the plaintiffs on this issue and has refused to sit down with port authorities, agricultural interests and, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, utilities and rate payers. While still in its beginning stages, not having a significant voice in the process has left us concerned about the future of the dams and our ability to provide affordable and reliable electricity. So we are acting before it’s too late.
As the decision to remove the dams would require an act of Congress, your letters have targeted Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen and Representative Mark Amodei. Because the Federal Columbia River Power System is thought of as a resource of the Pacific Northwest and not northern Nevada’s high desert, we want our representatives to know the dams are vital to regional reliability and our local economies. Our hope is they’ll be prepared to advocate and fight for our best interests when the time comes.
All 3 representatives have responded. I visited Washington, D.C., in July with a group of public power representatives. Representative Amodei was quick to offer his support to our cause if and when needed. He has a long history of advocating on our behalf.
We hosted Senator Cortez Masto in Wells in August as she traveled through northern Nevada on her way back to Washington, D.C. She was adamant that she would not support dam removal without a viable replacement for the lost electricity. There isn’t a replacement now nor is there 1 on the horizon. The following week, she met with then-Deputy Interior Security Tommy Beaudreau and discussed the issue. She was told the process was still in the early phases and that any action on the dams would require a plan to address the lost electricity. Just as the senator was a driving force in passing the most recent mining bill, our hope is that she’ll be equally active on this issue if needed. Senator Rosen also responded, sending an aid to Wells to meet with employees and board members to discuss the issue.
It remains too early to know about the ultimate outcome of our efforts. At the very least, they were enough to earn positive responses from all 3 federal representatives. If you haven’t done so already, you can still submit a letter. Moving forward, it will be important for all of us to monitor the situation and continue to build positive relationships with our representatives.
Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer