Hydropower and Renewable Energy
This chapter examines how hydropower and renewable energy diminished the value of American rivers as a whole and instead allocated them to narrow, extractive uses. There is an ongoing debate about whether hydropower should be considered “renewable” energy and lumped in with other green sources, such as wind and solar. On the one hand, the “fuel” for hydro is water, which renews itself as precipitation. On the other hand, dams have a finite life, reservoirs fill with silt, and hydro dams can have devastating effects on riverine environments. Nonfederal hydropower in the United States is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has enormous power over the fate of rivers. This chapter considers the politics and legal history of the conflict between fish—specifically salmon and steelhead smolts—and four hydro dams on the lower Snake River in the Columbia River Basin.
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