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Save Our Wild Salmon

Salmon Suffer Little Harm from High Gas Levels

Portland, OR – In a new report released today, salmon advocates present biological data showing that Columbia and Snake River salmon populations were largely unharmed by this spring’s unusually high water and dissolved gas levels. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) used “protecting salmon” as its rationale for repeated shut-offs of Northwest wind power projects’ access to the power grid over nearly two months.  The report concludes BPA’s policy did little to nothing to protect salmon.

The report, issued by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, summarizes the real-time biological monitoring of ocean-bound salmon that occurred this spring and summer.  That monitoring detected extremely small negative effects of high gas levels and spill on salmon.

According to Nicole Cordan, SOS’ Legal and Policy Director, “We suspected it was inaccurate for BPA to use salmon as its scapegoat to shut off wind power this year. Now the actual biological data confirms that we were right and that the great majority of migrating salmon did okay despite the large amount of spill over the dams."

In conditions of high flows, dams can cause a condition called gas bubble trauma in migrating salmon when large volumes of water spill over them.  But less than one-tenth of one percent of salmon examined this spring and summer at the federal dams exhibited symptoms of severe gas bubble trauma and only slightly more than one percent of salmon showed any signs of trauma at all.

Says SOS policy analyst Rhett Lawrence, “Our report recommends that in the future, BPA and river managers use the daily biological monitoring to guide case-by-case response at specific dams where problems arise, rather than institute a blanket policy that runs the danger of fixing a problem that mostly doesn’t exist.”

The report has three major findings: 1) that BPA’s policy did not appreciably help salmon; 2) that Oregon’s total dissolved gas standard is better for salmon than the Washington standard BPA currently uses; and 3) that migrating salmon benefitted from high flows and increased spill while suffering little harm from increased gas levels.

Download the full report.

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