“Spill” sends water – and migrating ocean-bound juvenile salmon and steelhead - over Columbia-Snake River dams rather than through spinning turbines or in trucks or barges. As long as the dams remain, spill is one of our most effective salmon protections. It helps the dammed Columbia and Snake act more like natural rivers – the conditions under which salmon evolved, and what scientists overwhelmingly agree we must mimic if we are to restore wild salmon.
A recent report by Northwest scientists concluded that higher levels of spill will increase both the survival of salmon as juveniles migrate to the ocean and the numbers of adults that return to the river. They predict that sufficient spill levels may recover some of our at-risk stocks.
The Obama Administration is expected to release its new Columbia Basin salmon plan at year's end - replacing the previous 2010/2008 version that was ruled invalid and inadequate in federal court in 2011. This promising new report – based on sixteen years of ongoing research – provides the Administration with a new opportunity to embrace science and include an expanded spill program in its upcoming plan. This could help salmon and fishing communities, and provide greater certainty to regional ratepayers, and businesses. It might also break the long cycle of illegal federal plans, and lay the groundwork for a regional stakeholder collaboration that can tackle the linked issues of salmon, energy, and transportation in the Columbia Basin.
Seattle Times: More Elwha fish find way to dam-free upper watershed
More sockeye, chinook and bull trout have made it above the former Glines Canyon dam site so far this spawning season than documented in any year since the unprecedented dam-removal project completed on the Elwha River.
By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter
October 17, 2016
More sockeye, chinook and bull trout have made it above the former Glines Canyon dam site so far this spawning season than documented in any year since the unprecedented dam-removal project was completed on the Elwha River.
The fish returns this season are an encouraging sign that blasting work in the river last summer to improve passage after initial dam removal has made a difference.
Numbers aren’t yet final, but so far snorkel surveys and radio telemetry used by scientists to track and monitor fish throughout the Elwha show that from the end of July through the end of September, about 70 chinook salmon made it above the former Glines Canyon dam site.
The farthest the fish have been seen upriver so far is at river mile 29. “That’s a considerable ways above, that’s past Elkhorn,” said George Pess, biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Pess, with an interagency team of collaborators, has closely tracked the river before and after dam removal to document the Elwha’s response.
To understand how fish are using the river, more surveys of redds and analysis of DNA samples from river water are under way this fall.
The largest ever anywhere, the $325 million federal dam-removal project on the Elwha took out the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, built beginning in 1910 to provide hydropower for Port Angeles and the Olympic Peninsula.
Before the dams came down, the power they generated was replaced by juice from the public power grid to the dams’ only remaining customer, a pulp mill in Port Angeles. One of the dams’ original customers, the mill is still in business.
Seattle Times Judge: Salmon recovery requires big dam changes
By Lynda V. Mapes
May 4, 2016
For the fifth time, a federal judge has called for an overhaul of Columbia and Snake River dam operations to preserve salmon and steelhead. In his ruling, he urged renewed consideration of Lower Snake River dam removal.
A federal judge has called for a new approach to Columbia and Snake River dam operations to preserve salmon and steelhead, with all options on the table for consideration, including dam removal on the Lower Snake River.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon in Oregon on Wednesday invalidated the U.S. government’s 2014 Columbia Basin biological opinion, under which federal agencies operate the Columbia River hydropower system. It’s the fifth time a biological opinion written by the agencies permitting operation of the dams has been struck down by the courts.
In his sweeping, 149-page ruling, Simon sounded about out of patience, quoting rulings over two decades by his predecessors denouncing a system that “cries out for a major overhaul,” and urging consideration of breaching one or more of the four dams on the Lower Snake River. “For more than 20 years, however, the federal agencies have ignored the admonishments and continued to focus essentially on the same approach,” Simon wrote. “ … these efforts have already cost billions of dollars, yet they are failing. Many populations of the listed species continue to be in a perilous state.”
Update: a not-so-new Federal Plan for Columbia/Snake salmon and steelhead
From the desk of Joseph Bogaard
January 22, 2014
Federal agencies in the Northwest released their (not so) new Federal Plan for Columbia-Snake River salmon and steelhead on Jan. 17. Four of the last five plans – dating back to the 1990s and including the last three in a row – have been rejected by the courts as inadequate and illegal. This latest plan, by the feds’ own admission, is barely distinguishable from the illegal 2008/2010 Plan it is meant to replace.
Needless to say, salmon and fishing advocates are very disappointed by the federal government’s latest effort. With this email, we want to deliver to you some highlights (lowlights?) from the feds’ plan and approach, serve up a mash-up of excerpts to give you a flavor of the media coverage, and provide a few links to some of the recent news stories. We’ll be in touch in the coming weeks with further details about the plan, updates about the feds’ apparent decision to go back to court for yet another round of litigation (the plaintiffs – salmon and fishing advocates, the State of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe – are studying the plan now, but no decisions have yet been made about future litigation), and how you can help.
Stay tuned and, as always, thanks very much for your support.
Joseph and the SOS Crew
An enhanced spill experiment – costs and carbon impacts are modest and manageable.
From the desk of Marc Krasnowsky, NW Energy Coalition. December 3, 2013
The NW Energy Coalition has released a pair of fact sheets addressing regional salmon scientists’ proposed experiment to measure survival gains from spilling more water over federal hydropower dams to aid the ocean-bound migration of Columbia Basin endangered wild salmon than is now required by the federal court. Court-ordered spill has increased returns of adult fish, and many regional scientists have concluded that additional spill could raise those returns even further - potentially to recovery levels for some of the endangered stocks.
• Enhanced spill: Consumer bills and CO2 emissions compares the effect of expanded spill on consumer electric rates and bills and on greenhouse gas emissions. It does so by comparison with a much greater hydrosystem change: removal of the four lower Snake River dams. The region’s official power planning agency – Northwest Power and Conservation Council analyzed the effects of lower Snake River dam removal (coupled with a reduction in coal-fired power) and found that wholesale rates might rise slightly but consumer/residential bills still would go down from current levels due to high, ongoing achievements in energy efficiency. Regional carbon emissions could be minimally affected depending on the amount and type of replacement power.
LA Times: Big chinook run doesn't let Columbia dams off the hook, activists say
Salmon counters at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River are seeing the biggest chinook run since 1938, but environmentalists still worry.
By Maria L. La Ganga
September 24, 2013
BONNEVILLE DAM, Wash. — The tiny fish-counting station, with its window onto the Columbia River, was darkened so the migrating salmon would not be spooked. And it was silent — until the shimmering bodies began to flicker by.
Then the room erupted with loud clicks, as Janet Dalen's fingers flew across her stumpy keyboard. Tallying the darting specimens, she chanted and chortled, her voice a cross between fish whisperer and aquatic auctioneer. Her body swayed from left to right. Her tightly curled bangs never moved.
"Come on, come on, come on," Dalen urged, as she recorded chinook and steelhead, sockeye and coho. "Treat the fish counter nice. Keep going, sweetheart. That's a good girl.… Pretty boy! Salute to the king! He's a dandy. Beautiful, beautiful. Lotta fun. Just can't beat it. An amazing year."