Archive for the 'NWNL–Columbia River Basin' Category

Floods: A Photo Essay

September 11, 2017

In honor of those devastated by the recent flooding all over the world, including Texas and Florida in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa and across Southeast Asia, NWNL takes a look at photos from our archives of flooding in our case study watersheds.

Columbia River Basin

Jones_070607_BCa_0058In British Columbia, Columbia River flooding from melting snow pack and storms, threatens barns and farmlands.  (2007)

Jones_070607_BC_1989Barn and truck underwater in British Columbia from Columbia River flooding due to melting snow pack and storms.  (2007)

 

Mississippi River Basin

MO-STG-411Mississippi River flood of 1993, St Genevieve, Missouri.

USA:  Missouri, West Alton, road flooded in the Mississippi River flood of 1993Road flooded in West Alton, Missouri during the Mississippi River flood of 1993.

 

Raritan River Basin

Jones_110311_NJ_7383 A submerged park bench during the spring floods in Clinton, New Jersey, part of the South Branch of the Raritan River Basin. (2011)

Jones_110311_NJ_7451 Hamden Road flooded near Melick’s bridge in Clinton, New Jersey, part of the South Branch of the Raritan River Basin. (2011)

 

Omo River Basin

Jones_070919_ET_0261_MDassenech village, located on the Omo Delta in Ethiopia, flooded by the Omo River and polluted by livestock effluent. (2007)

Jones_070919_ET_0289_MGranary hut built on stilts on a flooded plain in the Dassenech village in Ethiopia. (2007)

 

Posted by Sarah Kearns, NWNL Project Manager.

All photos © Alison M. Jones.

Celebrating World Wildlife Day!

March 3, 2017

By Christina Belasco

Today we celebrate World Wildlife Day. Acting to preserve our planet’s treasured biodiversity is more important now than ever. To honor our beloved creatures we share with you all today photos from our African and North American case study watersheds! We can never forget that these animals all depend on healthy, clean fresh water so we must protect our watersheds as well. Each animal, no matter how big or small, plays a critical role in the ecosystem and are all worthy of love and conservation. This reminds us all that no action we take in conservation is too small. We thank local environmental stewards everywhere for standing up for their ecosystems.

Africa:

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Kenya, Maasai Mara National Reserve. Elephants are a flagship species of the Maasai Mara Reserve. They are a key indicator species, and are in danger due to illegal poaching for their ivory.

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Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park. An Olive Baboon (papio anubis) eats a kigelia nut in groundwater forest. The baboon’s greatest threats are habitat loss due to deforestation as well as human hunting.

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Kenya, Maasai Mara National Reserve. An Impala Herd grazes at sunset. Impala are an important food source for many predators in the African Savanna, and are a very adaptable species.

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Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park. A Lioness is perched in an Acacia tree. Lionesses hunt for the pride. These predators of the Savanna are in danger because of habitat loss and poaching.

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Tanzania: Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The annual Wildebeest migration is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, when over 1.5 million Wildebeest trod in an enormous loop through Tanzania and Kenya.

North America:

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Columbia River Basin, Greater Yellowstone. The Buffalo was once the great icon of the heartland of the United States, and are sacred to the Native Americans of the plains who relied on Buffalo for centuries as their source of food, material, and ceremony. As the settlers came, the Buffalo was nearly hunted out of existence. Thanks to recent conservation efforts, especially in Yellowstone National Park, this giant creature is making a slow comeback.

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Washington, Columbia River Basin. Chinook Salmon are critical to river ecosystems in the Northwest. The single most damaging threat to the Salmon are dams, which block their ability to migrate downstream and into the ocean where they need to go to complete their life cycle.

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New Jersey, Mountainville (Raritan River Basin). Atlantis fritillary butterfly feeds on the bloom of a bush. Butterfly are not only beautiful, they help pollinate flowers and are a key indicator species.

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Louisiana, Atchafalaya Basin. The Alligator in the Atchafalaya Basin is a critical predator. It faces a multitude of threats including habitat loss, immense pollution, and human hunting.

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New Jersey, Upper Raritan River Basin. Honeybee populations all over the world are facing an enormous crisis due to pesticide spraying and climate change.

Let Salmon Migrate Up the Snake River Again

January 20, 2017

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Fish ladder in a Columbia River Dam. Alison Jones/NWNL

By Alison Jones, NWNL Executive Director

Mitigation against impacts on salmon populations by the Columbia/Snake River dams has been deemed insufficient.  Thus, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) has asked the US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for breaching, bypassing, or removing 14 Federal dams – including the 4 Lower Snake River Dams.  These agencies are now accepting public comments.  Given drastic declines of salmon, NWNL and many others who agree that avian predation management and “safety-net” hatcheries don’t do enough are sending in comments.  (More background info at www.crso.info.)

TO COMMENT on the Snake River Dams (by Feb. 7): Email comment@crso.info. Call 800-290-5033. Or mail letters to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NW Div., Attn: CRSO EIS, P.O. Box 2870, Portland, OR 97208-2870.

Our NWNL Comment on the 4 Lower Snake River Dams sent to the US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and Bureau of Reclamation:

For 10 years No Water No Life® has studied freshwater issues in the Columbia River Basin. We’ve focused on the Lower 4 Snake River Dams since 2014. During our 4-week Snake River Expedition, NWNL interviewed 17 scientists, fishermen, commercial farmers, USF&W staff, hatchery and dam operators, power companies, historians, the Port of Lewiston Manager and the Nez Perce Dept. of Fisheries. (Our 2014 Snake River itinerary)

After 3 follow-up visits to the Snake River Basin and continued research, No Water No Life asks you to breach, bypass or remove the Lower 4 Snake River dams. Below are the Q & A’s that informed our conclusion:

 Who cares about the future of the Lower 4 Snake River dams?  Many people – in and beyond the Columbia River Basin – are concerned. So far, over 250,000 taxpayer advocates have delivered comments supporting wild salmon and healthy rivers, according to Save our Wild Salmon. That’s a ¼ million people who’ve spoken out on meaningful, cost-effective salmon restoration that could occur with the removal of the 4 costly dams on the lower Snake River.

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Lower Granite Dam on Snake River’s Lake Bryan. Alison Jones/NWNL

Is there a real threat if nothing changes? Yes. The Endangered Species Coalition put Snake River Chinook on its top “Top Ten” list last month. In his examination of the Port of Lewiston’s diminishing role, Linwood Leahy notes we are pushing the salmon to extinction, even though they were here long before homo sapiens.

Is this plea just for salmon? No. Removing the Lower 4 Snake River dams will aid recovery of wild salmon, orca whales, freely-flowing rivers and forests enriched by remains of spawned salmon carrying ocean nutrients upstream. Nature built a fine web where species and ecosystems connect in ways we will probably never fully understand – but must respect. Loss of one species affects the entire trophic cascade of an ecosystem – be it the loss of predator species (e.g., lion or wolves) or the bottom of the food chain (e.g., herring or krill).

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Salmon hatchery in Columbia/Snake River System. Alison Jones/NWNL

The unique and already-endangered orcas (aka Southern Resident killer whales) are highly susceptible to declines of Snake River salmon, per The Orca Network. The Center for Whale Research claims that salmon restoration must “include the Fraser, Skagit and Columbia/Snake Rivers, the key sources that provide the wild salmon that the whales need to survive.”

How do the dams impact the salmon? Fish biologists agree that dams have decreased wild fish populations by making it more difficult for juvenile and adults to migrate to and from the ocean. Dams become salmon-killers each summer as water temperatures become lethally hot in slow-moving, open reservoirs. Even a 4-degree increase can kill thousands of fish.  When the dams go, wild salmon can again access over 5,000 miles of pristine, high-elevation habitat which is much cooler for salmon in this warming world.  Dam removal is agreed to be the single most effective means to restore populations of wild salmon, steelhead and Pacific Lamprey. It will also restore U. S. fishing industry jobs.

Does the Pacific NW need these 4 Snake River Dams for hydro energy? No. These outdated dams produce only 3% of the region’s power – and only during spring run-off, when demand is low. The electricity the dams produce can be replaced by affordable, carbon-free energy alternatives. Local wind energy has exploded and easily exceeds the capacity of the dams — by 3.4 times as much in the Pacific Northwest.  On some days the dam authorities can’t give away the little power they generate.  In light of that, it is wrong that taxpayers support exorbitant costs of maintaining these days (estimated at $133.6 million for 2015).

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Little Goose Lock and Dam on the Snake River. Alison Jones/NWNL

Do farmers or others need the Lower 4 Snake River Dams?  No. Distinct from the Columbia River system, the Snake River barge traffic, enabled by dams, has declined 70% in 20 years. Using the Corps of Engineers’ categorization, the Snake River has been a waterway of “negligible use” for years. There is no longer any containerized, barge shipping of lumber, wood chips, paper or pulse (peas, lentils, garbanzos) from the Snake River or anywhere to the Port of Portland. The only remaining shipping is for non-container commodities, such as wheat from the Palouse, which could be moved solely by truck-to-rail, instead of truck-to-barge. For further data, please feel free to email us (info@nowater-nolife.org) for a copy of “Lower Snake River Freight Transportation: Twenty Years of Continuous Decline” (October 25, 2016 by Linwood Laughy of Kooskia, Idaho).

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Wheat fields and wind energy in Snake River Basin. Alison Jones/NWNL

Much rail infrastructure is already in place and being expanded in realization that the dams are aging, performing as sediment traps (especially with climate change) and incurring heavy repair costs to prevent crumbling. The needed and smart investment would be a few more “loop rail” terminals with storage for grain. Long term, this will provide very cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly transport. There is a growing movement supporting more rail infrastructure, and even electric rail, in the US to create an interconnected and cleaner energy future.

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Ritzville WA Train Depot and grain silos in Snake River Basin. Alison Jones/NWNL

We ask you to avoid outdated date, miscalculations and past errors.  We ask you to hire independent, informed experts for their input on the dams’ actual costs and relevance.  We ask you to make the wise environmental and economical choice. Thank you.

Alison M. Jones, Executive Director of No Water No Life®, LLC

 

Canadian Tourism vs Water Quality & Biodiversity in Upper Columbia River Basin

November 3, 2015

NWNL applauds Patagonia for publicizing the East Kootenay threat of a proposed major ski resort that has concerned folks world-wide for decades. This film is a visually enthralling treat that portrays the beauty of the Upper Columbia River Basin mountain ranges and the reasons to KEEP JUMBO VALLEY WILD.


To supplement the story told by Patagonia, here are excerpts from our 2007 NWNL Columbia River Basin Expedition interview in Invermere BC with John Bergenske of Wildsight:

The transboundary Columbia River Basin is a continentally-significant ecosystem that also has the densest population of inland grizzly bears we know of.  Wildlife in the Purcells Range of the Columbia River Basin in the East Kootenays is a big, big issue because we are at a north-south crossroads in terms of our species diversity here.  We share the southern extent of some of the more northern species, and the northern extent of the more southern species.

Canada: Alberta, cars pulled over from highway watching black bear

Canada: Alberta, human development encroaches on bear habitat

The biologists are saying that’s going to be a major disaster if Jumbo Glacier Resort goes forward because of its potential movement of bear populations and the breakup of genetic connectivity that would occur over the long term, not just in the short term.  We have very strong public opinion against development of the resort here in the [Columbia Valley Kootenay] region, but the decisions are made in Victoria where the developers have very, very good connections.

A lot of our work [to stop Jumbo Glacier Resort] is around providing information.  We did about five years of field research on mountain caribou; and we’ve just been involved in several years of research on grizzly bear populations and density.  We’re keeping the public informed and  involved in this work.  We’re supporting the work of the land trusts to try to negotiate some trades.  The K’tunaxa First Nation is absolutely key to what’s happening here because this is the most sacred place in their territory.  This is the place of their creation myth, and so as a result they are very, very concerned about how this particular area is managed.  They are very in line with it being managed for the natural values and the wildlife values.

Canada:  British Columbia, Columbia River Basin, Kootenay Rockies, Cranbroook, Elizabeth Lake Wildlilfe Center)

Canada: British Columbia, Columbia River Basin, Kootenay Rockies, Cranbroook, Elizabeth Lake Wildlilfe Center

People don’t recognize that if you inundate the land with inappropriate tourism use – even if it is with nice little country homes – we basically lose key pieces of the landscape that are really important to make the whole system work [and to protect] all of its values, obviously including the water values [affected by increased water use, heavier septic loads and floods].  We have a 180 km. wetland system that is unique because of its importance on the flyway and the fact that it is the headwaters of this Columbia River Basin system.  Being such an adaptable animal, we as people don’t always recognize what we are losing until all of a sudden:  ‘Oh, what happened?’  In some ways, we adapt almost too fast in terms of change if you consider that some of the values we are losing are important in a much bigger picture than we see at the moment.

(Click on thumbnail images to enlarge.)

What are Phragmites and why are they a Problem?

August 11, 2015
USA: New York, Long Island, Huntington, Lloyd Harbor, red-winged blackbirds in phragmites (invasive) species)

USA: New York, Long Island, Huntington, Lloyd Harbor, red-winged blackbirds in phragmites (invasive species)

Non-native Phragmites, also known as common reed, is a perennial, aggressive wetland grass that displaces native plant and animal species. Invasive Phragmites is one of the most widespread plants on Earth and is found worldwide. In the U.S. it grows in the eastern states particularly along the Atlantic Coast and increasingly across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. It is usually an indicator of a wetland ecosystem that is out of balance.  (click on thumbnails below for caption info)

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Will the movie “DamNation” lead to the removal of the lower four Snake River Dams?

February 24, 2015
USA: WA, Columbia Snake River Basin, Garfield Co., Lower Granite Dam

USA: WA, Columbia Snake River Basin, Garfield Co., Lower Granite Dam

Since the release of the movie “DamNation” over a year ago, over 72 dams have been removed and over 730 miles of rivers were restored across the United States according to the non-profit conservation organization American Rivers. In January of this year, the producers of the movie met with members of Congress and White House officials regarding the removal of the lower four Snake River dams. Lower Granite is one.

NWNL documented the Snake River on an expedition last May interviewing stakeholders of the river including local farmers, an irrigation association, members of the Nez Perce Tribe, the manager of the Port of Lewiston, Idaho Power spokespersons and conservation organizations. Each group presented what the importance of the Snake River is to them. The only stakeholders we could not interview are the 13 species of salmon, the lamprey, the whales and other ocean-going creatures as well as the riparian vegetation that depend on an abundance of salmon to thrive. They are also voices of the river. Will some or all of the lower four dams be removed?  Check out the facts and myths page on the website of Save Our Wild Salmon. Further information about DamNation and its influence on dam removal is also available.

Blog post and photo by Barbara Briggs Folger.

Columbia River Basin Transboundary Conference 2014 ·

January 3, 2015
Columbia River seen from a trail near Castlegar, BC

Columbia River seen from a trail near Castlegar, BC

The year just ended is the 50th anniversary of the Columbia River Treaty, a 1964 agreement between Canada and the United States on the development and operation of dams for flood control and hydroelectric power for both nations. Participants from the U.S., Canada and Tribal Nations gathered at the Columbia River Basin 2014 Conference in Spokane, Washington, October 21–23 in anticipation of renegotiating the treaty before its 60th anniversary in 2024. NWNL Director Alison Jones attended the Conference; you can read her notes here on the many topics covered.

The Conference was based on Chatham House Rule whereby participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity, nor the affiliation of the speakers, nor that of any other participant maybe revealed. This anonymity encourages openness and the sharing of information.

Though the treaty has resulted in enormous benefits for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, there have long been concerns about social, economic and environmental effects associated with the construction and operation of the dams. The 2014 Conference served as a forum to share information on current issues and discuss the future of the Columbia River Basin. Key themes included ecosystem function, salmon restoration and fish passage, climate change, energy, transboundary river governance, and the future of the Columbia River Treaty.

Fish ladder at Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River

Fish ladder at Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River

The return of the Okanagan salmon is one of the success stories told at the 2014 Conference, yet there is still much else to be done. Fish passage around other dams needs to be restored; bears are eating more fawns due to lack of salmon; reservoir drawdowns leave sterile lakeshores that no longer support the larvae of caddis and mayflies, which are food for the fish; protections of ecosystem functions need to be strengthened.

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Transboundary governance also needs to be broadened to include participation of the public and of Tribal and First Nations; ecological protections need to change from species-based approaches to threat-based approaches (e.g., invasive species and mining in the headwaters); and a network or central organization is needed for unified collaboration of the many entities already in the basin.

The conference closed with new awareness, new alliances, and a unified commitment among U.S. and Canadian stakeholders, youth and Tribal and First Nations able to discuss and facilitate sustainable management solutions for both upstream and downstream interests to create a healthy Columbia River Basin. The resolution of ways to reach a more appropriate and effective transboundary treaty could be a great model for other global transboundary watersheds.

The Lake Roosevelt Forum in Spokane, Washington, has committed to continue the work with conference organizers on key issues and interest areas at the Forum’s conference this coming April.  — RW

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The graphic wall created at the Conference to track conversations.

NWNL at the Columbia River Basin 2014 Transboundary Conference

October 22, 2014

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Thru talks and art journaling, Day 1 of this conference has imparted a sense of how more and more of the diverse stakeholders in this basin are learning to “think like a river” — if the fish and other species don’t recognize boundaries, neither should humans!

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Historic Powerhouse on the Snake River

September 2, 2014

Swan Falls Dam, built in 1901, is the oldest hydroelectric dam on the Snake River and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River, Idaho

Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River, Idaho

This photo shows the scrub and sage brush that covers most of the land around the Snake River in western and south-central Idaho. If anyone is going to grow anything, they need lots of water!

Photos by Barbara Briggs Folger.

View more shots from this spring’s Columbia River Basin Expedition:

Upper Snake River dams and levees

Beautiful Scenics of the Upper Snake River

Flora and Fauna

 

Behind the wheel

August 15, 2014
US: Washington, Columbia River Basin, east side of Hanford Nuclear Site, wheel controlling level of irrigation canal

US: Washington, Columbia River Basin, east side of Hanford Nuclear Site, wheel controlling level of irrigation canal

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

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