Let Salmon Migrate Up the Snake River Again

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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

 

“Living Shorelines” Can Fortify Our Coastlines … A Solution at Work in New Jersey’s Raritan Bay

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A “living wall” of oysters in the South Atlantic. Photo: Alison M. Jones for No Water No Life

By Meredith Comi, Restoration Program Director of the NY/NJ Baykeeper 

After Hurricane Sandy, it was clear that coastal resiliency had become an immediate priority. Thus, Baykeeper began an innovative project to determine if a “Living Shoreline” of oysters could stabilize eroding shorelines of the urban New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Perhaps they would simultaneously protect the surrounding environment, improve water quality, and create healthy aquatic habitats.

Oysters are powerful. They can filter and clean water, a much-needed service today. They can provide reef habitat for other sea creatures and improve resiliency to storm surge and erosion. Oysters once thrived in the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary — so much so that Ellis Island was previously called Little Oyster Island.  However, over-harvesting, pollution and the sedimentation of reefs resulted in a sharp population decline. Today there is no longer a sustainable oyster population in the NY-NJ Harbor area; but NY/NJ Baykeeper is working to restore them. As a bi-state restoration leader, NY/NJ Baykeeper has had restoration projects in both NJ and NY waters.

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“Oyster-keepers” in the Raritan Bay. Photo: NJ/NY Baykeeper

In mid-August, 2016, NY/NJ Baykeeper and its partners installed a first-of-its-kind urban “Living Shoreline” in northern New Jersey waters.  Located in the Raritan Bay at the Naval Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County, a new 0.91 acre Living Shoreline consists of an artificial reef, using live oysters. Known as “oyster castles,” these new concrete structures are meant to provide the needed hard surface on which oysters can attach and grow. These 137 castles with about 10,000 oyster larvae can thus begin to fortify and protect the Raritan Bayshore.

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Oyster stabilization in the Mississippi River Delta.  Photo: Alison M. Jones for No Water No Life 

In 2010 the NJ Department of Environmental Protection banned all shellfish research, restoration and education activities in waters (1) deemed too contaminated or (2) “Restricted” or “Prohibited” for shellfish harvest.  Thus earlier oyster reef projects in nearby Navesink River and Keyport Harbor had to be moved. At that point, the U.S. Navy and NY/NJ Baykeeper became “Living Shoreline” partners. The U.S. Navy at Naval Weapons Station Earle, with its non-accessible stretch of shoreline, provides protected property, guidance and valuable support for Baykeeper’s oyster restoration activities.

Additional restoration activities at Naval Weapons Station Earle include setting oysters at NY/NJ Baykeeper’s aquaculture facility near the mouth of Ware Creek, and monitoring the oysters and structures in the ¼-acre experimental restoration plot to assess survival and growth.

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Deposition of “oyster castles” into the Raritan Bay at NWS Earle.

NY/NJ Baykeeper has monitored this Living Shoreline twice since its August installation, finding that the oysters grew 22mm in just 2 months!  Other organisms like sponges and algae are attached to the castles as well, further contributing to the Living Shoreline habitat.  All the castles have stayed in place, even during the rough seas when Hurricane Hermine was off shore. This is a good sign of how the castles will hold up in the dynamic Raritan Bay.

This winter, oyster growth will become slower as the water becomes cooler. Since all the oysters are far enough under the water’s surface, they will be protected should the Bay freeze over. Come spring, this Living Shoreline will be expanded, adding more castles and oysters to the system.  Meanwhile, NY/NJ Baykeeper continues its study of biodiversity  and its collection of water quality data.

For further information, please contact Meredith Comi at meredith@nynjbaykeeper.org

Charcoal burning destroys Kenya’s forests

 

Africa:  Kenya; North Rift District, Turkana Land, bags of charcoal for sale
Africa: Kenya; North Rift District, bags of charcoal for sale

How many trees are cut down to make one bag of charcoal? This illegal trade destroys endangered animals natural habitat and puts pressure on the entire ecosystem.

Fact – In Kenya, charcoal provides energy for 82% of urban and 34% of rural households. Source: http://asokoinsight.com/news/illegal-logging-charcoal-burning-destroying-east-africas-forests/

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Botswana’s Okavango Delta: UNESCO’s 1000th World Heritage Site!

A place as extraordinary as the Okavango Delta certainly deserves to be designated as a World Heritage Site – and finally it is!  As #1000 on that list, it’s one of NWNL’s favorite natural landscapes and wetlands ecosystem. You can see why in the photos. It’s literally an oasis in an arid country with no access to the sea. The Okavango River swells to three times its size during seasonal flooding, attracting one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife, including many endangered species. No Water – No Life!

Related reading: https://www.iucn.org/?16018/Iconic-Okavango-Delta-becomes-1000th-World-Heritage-site

http://www.okavangowildernessproject.org/

How Wolves Change Rivers

This video, How Wolves Change Rivers, explains the “balance-of-nature“ phenomena scientists call a “trophic cascade.” NWNL also documented this on its Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Expedition in 2008. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, it had a very beneficial impact on the ecosystem and on water flows. Although the video mislabels the elk as “deer”, its message is relevant.

The influence of just a small group of wolves on river systems is as magical as the cry of the wolf itself. For a sense of being on the Yellowstone River in the Missouri-Mississippi headwaters, do look at our Yellowstone Species photo gallery.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Ethiopia: Dams threaten Indigenous communities, Omo Valley, Lake Turkana

A Cascade of Development on the Omo River by International Rivers, with photos by Alison M. Jones, 2014 (11:19).

This film outlines how Ethiopia’s new Gibe Dams will cause a 70% water-level reduction over the next 3 years – and thus drastically impact Ethiopia’s Omo River, its Lake Turkana terminus in Kenya, and ½ million residents in this Rift Valley’s Cradle of Humankind. These hydro-dams – and the new commercial agricultural plantations they will irrigate – threaten the livelihoods of local indigenous tribes and their ecosystems. The Gibe Dams will also imperil the Omo-Turkana Basin’s migrating birds, fish and crocodile populations, and the scant amount of wildlife left.

The film pleads that water flows be managed so as to maintain the sustainability of the Omo River, Lake Turkana, and today’s indigenous communities who represent 6000 years of self-sustaining flood-recession farmers and fishermen. For more information on the Omo River :
 Download the factsheet on Gibe III Dam by International Rivers.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS FROM NWNL:  For many millennia, the Omo’s annual 60 foot floods from the highlands’ monsoonal rains have supplied nutrient-rich silt and irrigation for the crops of the Mursi, Suri, Karo, Hamar, Nyangatom, Dassanech and other
unique indigenous cultures. In a 2008 NWNL interview…. Read the full story here.

Full Wolf Moon Tonite! – HOWL!

USA:  Montana, Bozeman, "Cheyenne," rescued Grey wolf (Canis lupus)
USA: Montana, Bozeman, “Cheyenne,” rescued Grey wolf (Canis lupus)

Tonight’s full moon is known as the Full Wolf Moon. This name dates back to Native American tribes in the Northern and Eastern United States. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled…”

The wolf is a keystone species in our watersheds. This oft-maligned canine plays a critical role in naturally balancing water quantity in upper and lower river basins. Visiting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2008, No Water No Life witnessed wolves protecting our water supplies and preventing downstream destruction and degradation in the Missouri-Mississippi watersheds.

The presence of wolves along riverbanks keeps heavy browsers (such as elk and moose) back in the cover of forests. But – without the wolf, riverside vegetation is quickly devoured. Without bushes, sedges and grasses, riverbanks quickly destabilize and erode. Without riverine willows, beavers can’t build dams. Without beaver dams and riverside vegetation, nature’s moderating water–retention system becomes ineffective. All these changes exacerbate the increase in floods and droughts downstream these days.

Let’s take advantage of nature’s free gift of wolves and howl with them in the full moon tonight!!!