Wild Salmon, Clean Energy and Climate Change
The survival of wild salmon depends on healthy rivers and a healthy climate. Our increasingly dynamic energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors offers effective, affordable solutions for replacing the lower Snake River dams’ ‘extinction energy’ with conservation and new renewables. No new greenhouse gases required. We don't have to choose between affordable, carbon-free energy and healthy populations of wild salmon.
The four lower Snake River dams produce less than 1,000 aMW of electricity each year - about 4 percent of the Northwest’s supply. Even as capacity from renewables expands, the regional electric grid is rapidly evolving, and we’re becoming smarter about how we generate, consume, and manage electricity.
Our region, for example, has recently developed more than 2,500 average megawatts (aMW) from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy. Another 1,500 aMW is currently under construction or in the final stages of approval. In addition, we’ve saved - effectively created – more than 5,500 aMW of electricity in the last several decades through smart investments in energy efficiency. And while the cost of renewables has plunged in recent years, the cost of maintaining these four aging federal dams has been steadily rising.
In the years ahead, the portfolio of low carbon resources will continue to expand and be more than able to meet the capacity and energy needs of the Northwest, while also providing among the lowest electric rates in the nation.
Our greatest asset is our ingenuity and ability to adapt. We don't have to choose between restoring the ancient cycle of salmon – a defining feature of the Pacific Northwest way of life – and having low-carbon energy. We can and should have both.
NW Fishletter #364: NWEC Panel Explores Replacing Power From Lower Snake River Dams
December 5, 2016
A panel convened at the Nov. 17 NW Energy Coalition conference in Portland explored options and pitfalls associated with replacing power from the lower Snake River dams, should the dams be removed.
The panel, moderated by NWEC board member Joseph Bogaard, was charged with considering only the value of the dams' energy system and impacts to it, and not irrigation, navigation, recreation or other values.
The four dams on the lower Snake--Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite--have a collective nameplate generating capacity of 3,033 aMW and a combined average yearly output of about 1,075 aMW, said John Fazio, senior power systems analyst for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and a presenter on the Nov. 17 panel.
Joining Fazio on the panel were NWEC policy director Wendy Gerlitz and Northwest Requirements Utilities CEO Roger Gray, whose group represents 33 small BPA customers.
Gerlitz told the panel that the May 2016 federal court decision rejecting the Columbia-Snake River BiOp created a new opportunity to explore more economical and environmentally beneficial strategies for the regional energy system.
Spokesman Review Guest Opinion: We can restore salmon and have carbon-free energy
By Nancy Hirsh
Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016
The Spokesman-Review’s Sept. 30 article “Feds asking public to weigh in on breaching Snake River dams” allowed to go unanswered a statement claiming that, if the region chooses to remove the four outdated and expensive dams on the lower Snake River, the hydroenergy they produce will have to be replaced by building a carbon-emitting natural gas plant that adds to climate pollution.
In short, the claim is that we can have either salmon restoration or we can have carbon-free energy, but not both. This is a false choice of the kind that moved the federal court to find that the federal agencies failed to adequately consider viable options, including ones that can replace the electricity from these dams with carbon-free, clean and renewable energy and help to bring back our amazing salmon. Here are the facts they are overlooking.
The Northwest electricity grid has changed tremendously in the past 20 years. Building on our abundant hydropower resources, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana have developed new, renewable resources totaling more than 2,500 average megawatts (aMW) from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy, with another 1,500 aMW under construction or in the final stages of approval. On top of this we continue to make strong advances in conservation and energy efficiency, saving more than 5,500 aMW of electricity over the years.
The Seattle Weekly: Washington’s Big Dam Climate Nightmare
Scientists have identified man-made reservoirs as a huge source of heat-trapping methane. Will it be the last straw for Washington’s controversial dams?
Wed Oct 5th, 2016
In late August, Washington State University professor John Harrison boarded a plane at Portland International Airport. The scientist found his seat and took some time to dig through his briefcase and order his papers before takeoff.
Harrison slept a bit during the 10-hour flight to Amsterdam, the first leg toward his final destination of Minsk, Belarus. But the man with thinning brown hair and a permanent smile took much of the flight to examine data on ebullition rates, CO2 fluxes, and other complex sciences. He also took the chance to read over the statements he was slated to give at the international conference of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Minsk.
Harrison was so engrossed in his preparations for the conference that he likely missed the chance to look out the window as the plane flew east toward the Atlantic. Had he looked out, though, he could have spotted the Bonneville, The Dalles, the John Day, or any of the other 60-odd hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River watershed area. Expansive walls of concrete, churning turbines, and the placid waterways behind them that provide irrigation for crops, water supplies for towns, recreation for boaters, and renewable sources of energy for just about everyone in Washington.
Renewable, yes. But clean? Not as such.
Much of the reason Harrison was flying to speak at the IPCC was to discuss findings from a synthesis study he co-authored, released in the Oct. 5 issue of the journal BioScience. The study calls into question hydroelectricity’s reputation as a climate-friendly source of energy. According to the study, reservoirs from around the world are an “important source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere.” The study suggests Washington’s dams—from the expansive Grand Coulee down to the littlest blockade on a spring in King County—and the reservoirs behind them all pump out methane, a compound up to 85 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Seattle Times: Hydropower isn’t carbon neutral after all, WSU researchers say
September 28, 2016
Washington State University researchers have learned that reservoirs produce much more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than previously understood.
By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter
Think hydropower is carbon neutral? You have another think coming, Washington State University researchers have learned.
In their paper to be published next week in BioScience, the researchers reported that reservoirs of all sorts are important sources of the potent greenhouse-gas methane. The gas is produced by decomposing organic material underwater.
While much attention has been paid to the effects of dams on fisheries and the natural form and function of rivers, little notice has been taken of the emissions they cause. Usually thought of as carbon-neutral sources of energy, hydropower dams, while far cleaner than fossil fuel for generating power, nonetheless are sources of carbon pollution.
Reservoirs not only produce methane, but they generate more greenhouse gases than natural lakes, found research associate Bridget Deemer and John Harrison, associate professor of biogeochemistry at WSU Vancouver.
That is for two reasons: Dams on rivers trap organic materials from a large cachement area continually delivered by the free-flowing river upstream. Secondly, dams tend to be located nearer to human presence, where nutrient loading from fertilizers used in agriculture, manure from farm animals, and septic and sewer systems boosts production of algae and other organic life in the water. That means more for microbes to eat — and more methane produced by the microbes.
Spokesman Review: About 35 percent of Snake River sockeye presumed dead
By Becky Kramer
Thursday, August 18, 2016
About 35 percent of this year’s Snake River sockeye salmon run hasn’t shown up at Lower Granite Dam, and the fish are probably dead, the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday.
About 1,240 adult Snake River sockeye were counted at Bonneville Dam on the Lower Columbia earlier this summer. But only 788 of those fish have been detected at Lower Granite, the farthest upstream dam of the four Lower Snake River dams.
“They’re presumed to have perished,” Army Corps spokesman Bruce Henrickson said of the missing fish.
This year’s results are better than 2015, when 98 percent of the Snake River sockeye run died because of high temperatures in both the Columbia and the Snake, Henrickson said. Last year was the hottest on record.
Adult sockeye are particularly vulnerable to hot water, because their migration to spawning grounds coincides with the hottest part of summer. Water temperatures above 68 degrees are dangerous for salmon.
-- REPORT FOR AUGUST 23, 2016 --
INTRODUCTION: With weekly updates, The Hot Water Report 2016 tracks water temperatures, salmon survival and climate related developments in the Columbia-Snake River Basin this summer. The report is updated weekly - published here every Tuesday - from early July through September. Each week we will share the most recent temperature data from the Columbia-Snake Rivers, news stories on climate change and current conditions for rivers and fisheries, and share information on actions state and federal agencies and our communities can take to ensure safer, healthier rivers for salmon and steelhead. We will include first-person accounts from anglers, guides, scientists and citizens on the Columbia-Snake rivers this summer.
SPRING-SUMMER 2016 WATER TEMPERATURES AT LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS (4/1-8/23)
The graph above reflects water temperatures recorded in the lower Snake River reservoirs. The blue-toned lines reflect the average daily mean temperatures in each of the four reservoirs collected in the last 1-8 years, beginning on April 1. The red-toned lines reflect the 2016 daily mean temperatures at each of the four lower Snake River reservoirs since April 1. As one can see, earlier this season, daily mean water temperatures were frequently considerably warmer than the average daily mean temperature collected over the last 1-8 years. There has been considerably more overlap in these temperatures since approximately the middle of July.
Notably, temperatures in the Lower Snake River appear to have roughly leveled off in recent weeks. Temperatures in the Lower Granite Dam reservoir are the lowest - hovering around 66 degrees - still safe for salmon and steelhead. Temperatures in the reservoir behind Little Goose Dam are a little higher, but still at or close to 68 degrees. Further downstream in the reservoirs of Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor Dams - temperatures are now consistently above 68 degrees. Ice Harbor Dam's reservoir has the highest temperatures - reaching over 72 degrees.
- Aug 17, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Hot water poses ongoing threat to Columbia River salmon, groups say (2)
- Aug 17, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Hot water poses ongoing threat to Columbia River salmon, groups say (3)
- Aug 16, 2016 - Hot Water Report 2016 (8.16.2016)
- Aug 02, 2016 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: We can have a clean energy future and wild salmon
- Aug 01, 2016 - SOS Blog: Lessons from the 2015 Columbia-Snake Salmon Kill (2)
- Jul 26, 2016 - Hot Water Report 2016 (7.26.2016)
- Jul 19, 2016 - Hot Water Report 2016 (7.19.2016) (9)
- Jul 12, 2016 - Hot Water Report 2016 (7.12.2016) (9)
- Jul 04, 2016 - Hot Water Report 2016 (10)
- Jul 04, 2016 - Hot Water Report 2016 (7.6.2016)
- Jul 01, 2016 - CBB: Steps Taken To Cool Warming Lower Snake, Reduce Thermal Blocks As Large Basin Sockeye Return Heads Upstream (3)
- Jun 25, 2016 - WAPO: Obama’s advisers just dismantled a key myth about the future of clean energy (2)
- Jun 25, 2016 - CBB: Hot Summer. Will Sockeye Get Slammed Again? (2)
- Jun 02, 2016 - Idaho Mountain Express: Middle Fork could regain role as salmon nursery (2)
- May 15, 2016 - Seattle Times Op-Ed: Federal court decision is a critical opportunity for salmon, energy and communities (2)
- Apr 25, 2016 - Idaho Statesman: Warm Pacific continues to chop salmon numbers, affecting Idaho, Northwest (2)
- Apr 14, 2016 - Seattle Times: Last year’s heat wave doomed nearly all Okanogan sockeye salmon (2)
- Apr 01, 2016 - CBB: Army Corps Responds to Fish Advocates - Report underway on 2015 Columbia/Snake warm water, fish die-off (2)
- Oct 28, 2015 - Columbia Basin Bulletin: Preliminary 2015 Spring Juvenile Survival Estimates Through Snake/Columbia River Dams Dismal (2)
- Oct 14, 2015 - NWEC: Study finds negligible cost for effective salmon recovery action
- Jul 28, 2015 - Lewiston Tribune: Sockeye salmon in hot water
- Jul 17, 2015 - Idaho Statesman: Biologists bring sockeye into Idaho on trucks to get them out of hot water (2)
- Jul 03, 2013 - The Lower Snake River is heating up. (2)
- May 17, 2013 - Climate Change Prevention and Care (2)
- Apr 23, 2013 - The Oregonian: A 21st-century blueprint for saving Oregon species from climate change (2)
- Apr 13, 2013 - Fires, Sediment, Salmon and Taxpayers (2)
- Nov 01, 2012 - NW Energy Coalition: Bright Future
- Nov 01, 2008 - A Great Wave Rising: Solutions for Columbia and Snake River Salmon in the Age of Global Warming