What percentage of Washington state's electricity comes from hydropower? A social media campaign by Northwest RiverPartners launched on May 18 aims to answer that question (66 percent) and inform the public generally about hydro advantages.

RiverPartners hired North, a Portland-based advertising company, to create an assortment of short videos and posts for Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites about the benefits of hydropower, RiverPartners Executive Director Kurt Miller said. He said the content will be rolled out over the next three months to inform Pacific Northwest residents that a lot of their power comes from hydroelectric projects. Hydropower is available on demand, and helps the region integrate other forms of clean energy, such as wind and solar.

"We're going to be looking to connect with people in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana because they all share in the benefits of hydro, and we want them all to be aware of it," Miller said.

Miller said many people who grew up or have lived in the Northwest for a long time have heard the Woody Guthrie songs about the Columbia River hydroelectric system, written during his one-month stint working for the Bonneville Power Administration in May 1941. But many newer residents are likely unaware of those songs, or the history of the hydroelectric system, he noted.

"A lot of people in the Northwest didn't grow up here. It has one of the largest percentages of in-migrants of any region of the U.S. over the past decade," especially in Seattle, Portland and Boise, he said.

This campaign commissioned a local folk artist to develop a song in the spirit of Guthrie's work for BPA, Miller said.

He said the campaign is not about the four lower Snake River dams or Columbia River System Operations draft EIS. "It's definitely not supposed to be controversial," he said. "It's supposed to be informative, and help people more closely understand where their energy comes from."

And while RiverPartners supports retaining the lower Snake River dams for economic, environmental and social equity reasons, the social media posts will not advocate for or defend any particular set of dams, he added.

The ads will start with a series of video vignettes tracing the history of hydropower in the region, and its current role in fighting the impacts from climate change.

K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.