February 1, 2019
By Reed Andrews
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Washington's Department of Ecology is seeking public input for its plan to require federal dams to treat, clean, and cool water along the Snake and Columbia rivers in an effort to boost the salmon population.
"That minute that water turns from ice or snow to liquid, we've got to look at what we can do to keep it as cold as possible," said Charles Hudson with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council says 55 percent of the salmon population is permanently blocked by dams. Hudson adds that not only do dams interrupt salmon during their life cycle but they also can lead to warmer water temperatures. Salmon thrive in water up to 68 degrees.
A study from the Environmental Protection Agency looked at water temperatures in the Columbia River over a five-year period, starting in 2011, and found that 90 percent of the time the water was too warm for salmon to thrive.
"When you get above that, it gets more and more precarious," Hudson said. "It becomes a function of both the temperature and the amount of time they spend in it."
The Department of Ecology told KATU News that there's no set plan for how the dams would treat and cool the water, or when the regulation would go into effect.
Hudson adds that while dams take a share of the responsibility for hurting the salmon population, other factors such as climate change and deforestation contribute as well.
"Any removal of shade, the cooling mechanism for the tributary, will have an effect," Hudson said. "What we'd like to see is a regional consistent water quality standard set at a good, high level."
A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the Washington State School for the Blind located at 2214 E. 13th Street in Vancouver at 2:30 p.m. It'll be held in the Fries Auditorium.