OPALCO board rescinds dam resolution in favor of collaboration with membership

Submitted by Orcas Power and Light Cooperative

At the Jan. 23 board meeting on Lopez Island, the Orcas Power and Light Cooperative Board voted unanimously to rescind Resolution 2-2019, which was enacted in September 2019 in support of the Federal Columbia River Power System. There were 17 members at the meeting to comment on the matter and more than 50 co-op members voiced concerns about the resolution in public meetings and through letters and emails.

In the spirit of the Governor’s Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Engagement Report, the OPALCO Board was motivated to facilitate a respectful conversation with its members that included diverse perspectives and to encourage collaboration — current and future — with its stakeholders.

“The Board is not taking a position on the LSRD dams specifically,” said General Manager Foster Hildreth. “Our concern is to provide reliable, affordable and clean power to the 20 islands we serve. OPALCO is closely monitoring the progress of the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement, new legislation and other peer-reviewed studies.”

The board expects that the EIS will analyze the FCRPS using the latest available data, including the best forward-looking estimates for resource adequacy in the region. OPALCO continues to be very concerned about the myriad issues affecting the Pacific Northwest including salmon and whale survival, carbon reduction, balancing electric capacity to meet load in the wake of coal plant closures and especially the deficiencies in power capacity projected for the near future.

“We appreciate the engagement of our members,” said Hildreth. “We ask that members stay engaged as we work collaboratively to address the upcoming challenges and, in particular, as we invest in local renewable generation to make sure we have adequate and acceptable resources that work with our sensitive marine environment and help us realize our vision.”

Members thanked the board for opening up the discussion and asked that they “plan for our priorities.” OPALCO does have a strong plan in place laying out its vision for a healthy and sustainable future. Check out the 2020-2040 Integrated Resource Plan at https://www.opalco.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/OPALCO-2020-2040-IRP-R16.pdf and let OPALCO know if you have a group that would like to learn more. The vision for a clean energy future is clear, but how we get there is complex and expensive.

Board President Vince Dauciunas thanked each member for their participation and emphasized, “We need our members more than ever as we navigate the new energy landscape of decarbonization and the impacts of climate change. We must work together for a healthy future.”

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