Save Our wild Salmon: The Blog
Where we candidly and accurately react to and reflect on current affairs impacting wild salmon and salmon jobs. And of course, never missing the opportunity to point out that those obsolete dams on the Lower Snake River need to go. Bloggers include SOS staff, with occassional guest entries.
All Scientists Are Saying Is…"Give (More) Spill A Chance."
From the desk of Gilly Lyons, SOS Policy and Legal Director. May 6, 2013.
120% or 125%?
2%, 4%, or 6%?
35% or 70%?
These numbers and acronyms are just a sample of the many facts and figures presented at the Comparative Survival Study (CSS) annual meeting that I attended April 30 in Vancouver, WA. CSS is a collaborative scientific study, initiated in 1996 by state and Tribal fishery managers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to estimate Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead survival rates at different life stages. Probably our most effective near-term salmon protection measure is spill - a program that sends some water over Columbia/Snake River dams (rather than through turbines) to help more young fish reach the Pacific Ocean safely. With the dams in place, spill helps the river act just a bit more like, well, a river – which is exactly what endangered salmon and steelhead need.
Since 2006, under federal court order (as a result of a legal victory achieved by salmon and fishing advocates, the State of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe), federal dam managers have been required to spill water to improve salmon survival during their spring/summer migration.
Scientists have long understood that spill helps salmon, but it turns out to be even more beneficial than we thought – not just in terms of getting ocean-bound smolts downstream in one piece, but also in terms of their survival in the ocean and eventual return to spawning gravels as adults.
At this year’s meeting, scientists presented a range of modeled scenarios that indicate more spill - up to a point - can lead to survival improvements that could move imperiled salmon and steelhead stocks from the “treading water/ at high risk of extinction” column into the “hey, now we’re getting somewhere” column.
The truest way to measure salmon survival is something called the Smolt-to-Adult Return ratio, or SAR. For example, for every 100 smolts that journey downstream, how many ultimately return as adults? Scientists generally agree that a 2-4% SAR is needed for survival over the long-term, while a 4-6% SAR is required to rebuild populations. CSS modeled various levels of spill to see how each of four scenarios affected the SARs.
Underpinning these scenarios is a key balancing question: can we spill enough water to yield an SAR at or above 2% (the region’s minimum target for getting salmon numbers "back in the black"), but without spilling so much water that in-river gas levels put the fish at risk of injury? (As spill levels increase, dissolved gases do too, and at certain threshold levels, this can become problematic for salmon and steelhead.)
The CSS shows we can. According to the scientists' models, if we spill enough water to reach 125% total dissolved gas (ie, the saturation of nitrogen in the river on the dams’ downstream side), we are likely to see SARs at or above 2% more than 70% of the time. (The 125% dissolved gas level is also very safe for salmon; it is only at higher levels that fish start to show signs of impact or injury.) Even if we spill to a 120% gas cap, we’d see those sought-after SARs about 35% of the time.
Contrast both of those scenarios to the level of spill laid out in the now-illegal 2008/2010 federal salmon plan (BIOP): it only hits an SAR of 2% or more 14% of the time. Our salmon, steelhead and fishing economy, and our region needs better than that; the CSS model shows that "better" is very possible.
While Bonneville Power Administration and the other federal dam managers still insist on much lower spill levels, many Northwest fishery managers appear interested in spilling more water (maybe to 120%, perhaps to 125%) to help fish – and “test the waters” to confirm that more spill at these higher levels will lead to many more salmon.
We want to see this too. With our partners, SOS has fought successfully for spill since 2005. We know that it works – and that it’s largely responsible (along with good ocean conditions) for the modest bumps in salmon returns that we’ve seen over the past few years.
The science says let's give spill a chance; now is the time for a new, expanded experimental spill program in the Columbia/Snake rivers.
Chicago Tribune: Interior Department recommends removal of Klamath River dams to aid salmon
April 04, 2013, Laura Zuckerman, Reuters
The government on Thursday recommended the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California to aid native salmon runs and help resolve a decades-long struggle over allocation of scarce water resources.
The Interior Department proposal, which comes as the largest dam removal project in U.S. history is nearing completion in Washington state, concerns a system of dams that straddle the Oregon-California border.
The proposal to dismantle the dams owned by utility PacifiCorp coincides with a broader push by environmentalists and others to restore salmon fisheries in the Klamath Basin and elsewhere in the nation.
The dams recommended for removal, two in Oregon and two in California, block upstream spawning migrations of salmon and place juvenile fish at risk by slowing their return to the Pacific Ocean.
Removing them would open 420 miles of salmon habitat for the first time in 100 years, eliminate turbines that grind up fish and restore the Klamath River channel, according to the government analysis.
The recommendation stems from a 2010 agreement among competing Klamath Basin water users that called for the government to determine if removing the dams would restore failing salmon runs and lessen conflicts in regional water management.
The Klamath River contains several fish, including Coho salmon, on the federal threatened and endangered species list, and repeated droughts in the basin have periodically forced water managers to allocate flows to protected fish rather than to farmers for irrigation.
The recommendation, which came in an environmental impact statement released by Interior, follows years of legal wrangling and periods of low flows that saw massive die-offs of salmon, shut-offs of irrigation districts and tightening of rules for hydroelectric projects that caused them to operate at losses.
The near collapse of Klamath Basin Chinook salmon led the government in 2006 to severely restrict commercial and sport fishing in the Klamath River and along 700 miles of the California and Oregon coast.
In a statement, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Thursday described the dismantling of the dams as "a comprehensive solution addressing all of the needs of the Klamath Basin, including fisheries, agriculture, refuges and power."
Under the proposal, which must still gain congressional approval, the dams would be removed over 20 months at a cost of $450 million to be garnered from rate payers and bonds.
If the dams were to remain in place, PacifiCorp would incur more than $460 million in costs for relicensing, operation and maintenance of aging structures that have proved unprofitable, the analysis shows.
Farewell to Fenton Roskelley - outdoor writer, sportsman, and conservationist
From the desk of Sam Mace, Save Our Wild Salmon
Fenton Roskelley, a treasured outdoor writer, sportsman and conservationist, passed away January 30th in Spokane, WA at age 96.
A lifelong flyfisher and hunter, Fenton covered the outdoors for the Spokane Daily Chronicle and Spokesman-Review for 60 years. He was a founding member of the Inland Empire Flyfishing Club and an ardent conservationist.
Fenton graduated from University of Idaho in 1938 with a degree in Journalism. He went to work at the paper before going to serve his country in World War II. On his return he started back at the paper.
As the Spokesman outdoor writer, Fenton followed and reported on the planned four lower Snake River dams, built between 1960 and 1975, as well other large federal dams built in those decades including Dworshak on the Clearwater. In the 1950s sportsmen and the Washington Department of Fish and Game were raising alarm at the impact the four dams would have on the Snake River’s renowned salmon and steelhead fisheries.
Fenton was one of many sportsmen who regularly hunted the draws and fished for steelhead and salmon on the free-flowing lower Snake River and its tributaries. Those who knew and loved the river understood the immense damage the four dams would wreak on both the fisheries and the productive wildlife habitat along the river that provided great hunting.
Fenton followed closely the passionate fight to stop lower Granite dam in the late 60s and early 70s. Witnessing the steep declines in fish numbers as the dams went in, sportsmen made a stand on Lower Granite dam and fought hard to stop its construction.
Fenton defended the free-flowing river as he was allowed to on the pages of the Spokesman-Review, a paper ardently supportive of the proposed dams. On more than one occasion Fenton’s articles were edited to reflect the position of the paper’s management, but he managed to slip a sentence in here and there in defense of the wild steelhead and salmon.
We owe so much to those of the Greatest Generation, who were patriots for their country and defenders of the great outdoors. While they lost the battle over Lower Granite, they were able to stop additional dams planned upstream on the Snake River.
Fenton continued to write, fish, hunt, hike and enjoy the outdoors well into his 90s. He was married for nearly 70 years to his wife Violet, who passed away in 2012. Fenton is survived by many children, grandchildren and great-grand children. His son John Roskelley, a mountaineer, conservationist and former Spokane County Commissioner, was the first elected official in eastern Washington to publicly support removal of the four lower Snake River dams.
The effort to restore and protect the lower Snake River continues today. Here’s hoping we can honor the memory of Fenton and the other great conservationists of his generation by restoring the lower Snake River so that future generations can fish, hike, hunt and enjoy the river as Fenton did.
Change on the Fly
A situation summary to Save Our wild Salmon’s groups and people
From the desk of Pat Ford
January 30, 2013
As 2013 begins, I want to briefly sketch some changes underway in SOS and in our work to change the Columbia-Snake dam system so that endangered salmon and steelhead can restore themselves. And ask your help as we tackle it on the fly.
Here’s my short list of the drivers, opportunities and challenges of this change. They echo with and across each other.
- our success late last year (shared well beyond SOS and our groups) when NOAA began a Columbia-Snake stakeholder process, with support from many elected leaders. For 20 years Northwest people with differing shares in and wishes for the main-stem Columbia and Snake have lacked an open way to talk, listen and work together directly, with confidence that doing so would over time make a difference for energy, transportation, economies, ecologies – and salmon. It’s not surprising that significant deadlock has filled that vacuum. NOAA’s process can be that needed workspace.
- the stakeholder collaboration will change SOS and our campaign. We must make those changes wisely, and pretty quickly.
- Elwha and White Salmon River recovery, by removal of the Elwha and Condit dams. These river recoveries, long in coming by our short clocks but really in a blink of time, will resound through the salmon states for years as saga, experiment, growth engine, collaboration, act of justice, act of freedom, healer and advance scout.
- Climate change taking hold on the Columbia and Snake.
- NOAA’s stakeholder process is a newborn workspace for a must-do job with salmon at its heart but not its whole: recalibrating what the Columbia and Snake Rivers do for us and we for them. No one initiative can do this, but this one will set a pace if the parties to today’s deadlock, plus our elected leaders and federal agencies, embrace and build it. NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco has given Northwest people an opportunity to step together, toward not “the middle” but the common wealth. And much of the opportunity rests with we who passionately seek the recovery of Columbia-Snake salmon.
Save Our wild Salmon Coalition welcomes new BPA administrator Bill Drummond
The Save Our wild Salmon coalition welcomes Bill Drummond as the next administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration. We wish him success in leading an agency crucial to Northwest people and businesses, including salmon-based businesses.
To a large extent, his success will be measured by whether BPA changes its unsuccessful approach to restoring the 12 wild salmon and steelhead species that the federal dam system has pushed onto the Endangered Species Act. For 12 years, federal dams on the Columbia and Snake have been operated illegally with respect to salmon. No federal plan for running the dams to avoid extinction and restore healthy populations has come close to court approval. No clear recovery trend is underway in the rivers and much of the progress actually made has resulted from court injunctions that Bonneville opposed. BPA’s approach is harming salmon people and businesses in five states. Bonneville itself has acknowledged that the lack of a legal plan is causing uncertainty that affects all uses and users of the river.
Mr. Drummond and BPA’s new leadership have three immediate opportunities to set a better course.
First, BPA can embrace the development of a new salmon plan for the dams that at last meets the tests of law and science. A new plan is due to federal court one year from now.
Second, Bonneville can support NOAA Fisheries’ recently-launched stakeholder process as a collaborative workspace where salmon, energy, transportation, and agricultural users can work together to tackle the uncertainties affecting us all on the Columbia and Snake. These rivers and what we need from them are changing, climate disruption is accelerating that change, and the challenges that confront all users can only be resolved together - not separately.
Third, Bonneville can change its “overgeneration policy”, which is harming the Northwest’s windpower industry as well as its salmon and salmon economy. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently ruled against BPA’s policy; Mr. Drummond can turn the necessity of revisiting it into an opportunity to provide salmon more useful spill, boost wind energy and energy efficiency, and thereby create Northwest jobs and growth in salmon and clean energy.
Fishing, conservation, clean energy and outdoor business groups congratulate Mr. Drummond on his appointment as BPA’s leader. We want to work with him and his leadership team to restore salmon and make the Columbia-Snake work better for all its users.
For further information:
Pat Ford, executive director, Save Our Wild Salmon 208-345-9067
From the desk of Pat Ford.
January 11, 2013
I want to note with sorrow the death, and recognize with gratitude the life, of Ralph Hadac. Dr. Hadac led the Horizons Foundation in Seattle, which provided periodic grants to Save Our wild Salmon since 2001. He died last week.
I did not know Dr. Hadac well, but I much enjoyed our occasional meetings at his office on Madison Street. He had a quiet skeptical interrogative manner, which I saw was his effective way of finding out if I knew what I was talking about. His questions were short and on point. It was always clear he had read my grant proposal closely. He did not talk much, he listened and evaluated. Once decisions were made, Horizons’ delivery of the news and, if the news was yes, funds and reporting requirements, was quick and efficient. I am sure he had a hand in that.
I intuit more than know from his words, but I know I am right, that he cared deeply for what SOS and other conservation-based groups seek to accomplish. He was not intimidated by big enterprises with high degree of difficulty and long time horizons. Which likely means that he relished them.
I am sorry to lose him as a partner for our work and for conservation in Washington State. I offer my condolences to Lucy, and Steve (whom I do not know) and my gratitude to them and, across the horizon, to Ralph.
- Jan 08, 2013 - Thank you for a successful End-of-2012 Fund Drive!
- Dec 04, 2012 - Confusing sockeye hatcheries with sockeye recovery
- Nov 07, 2012 - NOAA, We Have a Problem
- Oct 25, 2012 - Thank you for 13 excellent years
- Oct 22, 2012 - Looking to the Future: New report challenges the Northwest’s aging dam infrastructure
- Oct 08, 2012 - Run Wild for Salmon athletes exceed their goal.
- Oct 04, 2012 - Senator Wyden Supports New Approach to Salmon Restoration
- Oct 01, 2012 - Feds Maintain Status Quo as Salmon Numbers Struggle
- Sep 27, 2012 - Author attempts world record run for salmon
- Sep 25, 2012 - “I’m Pro-Salmon, and I Vote”
- Sep 21, 2012 - A Baker's Dozen
- Sep 18, 2012 - Salmon, Coal, and the Columbia River’s Future
- Sep 14, 2012 - The salmon aren’t celebrating Bonneville’s 75th
- Sep 07, 2012 - Run Wild for Salmon - Meet the Runners
- Aug 30, 2012 - Boil On Columbia
- Aug 28, 2012 - 2012 Salmon and Steelhead Returns Still Poor
- Aug 14, 2012 - The Worst Dam Bill Ever
- Aug 06, 2012 - The Most Interesting Fish in the World
- Aug 03, 2012 - In Virginia: Dam Removal Helping Eels
- Aug 01, 2012 - Outdoor Retailer is here!
- Jul 25, 2012 - Outdoor Idaho Focuses on Idaho's Salmon
- Jul 23, 2012 - Run Wild for Salmon - Portland Marathon 2012
- Jul 19, 2012 - If you un-build it, the fish will come
- Jul 16, 2012 - Rivers Gone Wild! - Patagonia-style...
- Jul 13, 2012 - Roll On Columbia Roll On
- Jun 29, 2012 - Sockeye Numbers at Bonneville Dam are Encouraging
- Jun 28, 2012 - Saving Salmon to Save Orcas
- Jun 25, 2012 - Maine's Great Works and the Columbia-Snake Opportunity
- Jun 21, 2012 - Lamprey Summit Sets a Good Example
- Jun 20, 2012 - Victory: Highway to Hell Defeated
- May 21, 2012 - Book a river trip and help support SOS
- May 18, 2012 - TAKE ACTION: Visualize your support for salmon!
- May 15, 2012 - Solutions for one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers
- May 11, 2012 - Spill, Judge Redden, and the Need for a New Process
- May 03, 2012 - Mother's wants a seat at the table
- Apr 26, 2012 - Judge Redden Supports Dam Removal
- Mar 24, 2012 - Men's Journal Features LSR Dam Removal
- Mar 07, 2012 - Court-Ordered Spill Helps Salmon Returns and Jobs
- Feb 22, 2012 - HB 4101: Serious Issue, Bad Bill
- Feb 21, 2012 - Paul Fish: Salmon Super Hero
- Feb 15, 2012 - Showing NOAA Some Love for Valentine’s Day
- Feb 07, 2012 - Toxic Oil Spill on the Lower Snake; What Next?
- Feb 01, 2012 - Sea Change for Port of Lewiston?
- Jan 25, 2012 - Mascot Love at Outdoor Retailer
- Jan 19, 2012 - Osprey Packs to host Buster, Ice-P, Bigfoot, and Timmy O'Neil at Outdoor Retailer
- Jan 12, 2012 - Outside Sees Momentum for Dam Removal in 2012
- Jan 10, 2012 - Patagonia’s Salmon Super Heroes
- Jan 06, 2012 - Salmon…and bikinis?