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Thursday, June 12, 2008 - Page updated at 05:06 PM

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Experts debate role of hydropower in the Northwest

Energy industry experts say hydroelectric dams provide clean, affordable, and renewable energy throughout the West, while environmentalists insist that dams must be operated in a way that supports the health of rivers and communities.

WASHINGTON —

Energy industry experts say hydroelectric dams provide clean, affordable, and renewable energy throughout the West, while environmentalists insist that dams must be operated in a way that supports the health of rivers and communities.

Avista Corp.'s Bruce Howard told a House subcommittee Thursday that hydropower is the largest renewable electric resource in the United States, providing about 9 percent of the nation's total summer capacity.

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said dams provide nearly two-thirds of Washington state's electricity. At a time of growing energy demand, it makes no sense to throw a clean energy source away, McMorris Rodgers said, referring to proposals by some environmentalists to breach dams to help threatened salmon.

But Andrew Fahlund of American Rivers warned that hydropower dams are not a "silver bullet" solution to global warming, and said healthy rivers will become increasingly valuable to wildlife and human communities in a warming world.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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