(The Center Square) - A new study is underway, considering the potential impacts if Congress were to breach Washington’s four Lower Snake River dams, a decision that could impact energy nationwide.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington State Department of Ecology are conducting the effort and plan to release a draft by the end of the year; as part of the process, the agencies will host two online meetings next week to discuss the study and answer questions.

According to a news release with links to the events, the agencies will host the first meeting on June 25 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the second on June 27 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The goal is to “obtain a detailed understanding of current water supply and irrigation [as well as] municipal and industrial uses near the four Lower Snake River dams” to “evaluate impacts to water delivery in the event Congress were to authorize breach of the dams,” according to the release.

The study is just one of many that the Biden administration committed to back in December when it reached an agreement in litigation over Columbia River System Operations. The deal includes restoring salmon populations impacted by the federal dams, supporting clean energy and ensuring the general stability of the tribes and communities along the river system.

The agreement also included a commitment to invest approximately $1 billion over the next decade to support the initiative, especially if Congress grants permission to breach the dams.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington leads the nation in producing hydroelectric power; last year, it constituted 60% of the state’s generated electricity and one-fourth to one-third of all hydroelectric generation nationwide.

In January, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers held a hearing over Biden’s agreement. Some stakeholders used it to speak out against the process, which excluded much of their input, while others noted its financial consequences.

“They’re saying it doesn’t have a big impact on rates because they’re not including the cost of the replacement power,” said Jim Matheson, chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, during the hearing. “If you want to build replacement power when you breach these dams, which I don’t think you can do and have the same comparable resource by the way, you’re going to spend a lot of money and it will have a big impact on rates.”

Earlier this week, the White House announced the creation of a new Columbia River Task Force intended to help fulfill the Biden administration’s commitments.

The announcement followed a report from the U.S. Department of the Interior about the ongoing impacts of federal dams on the Columbia River tribes. However, the report also included a disclaimer noting that it only analyzed a few of the dams and tribes and did not tell the whole story. Additionally, the agencies said it was written in a manner that supported the conclusions.

“Why are our local stakeholders and leaders not included on, or even informed of, a taskforce designed to fundamentally alter our region’s economic landscape,” Central Washington Congressman Dan Newhouse wrote in a news release. “This is nothing more than a disingenuous ploy for this administration to check a political box in the name of environmentalism and tribal relations. Their only 'task' is breaching our carbon free, renewable, and affordable energy base that supports the lives of the people of Central Washington.”

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