Posts Tagged ‘Snake River’

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

 

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.

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

 

What are anadromous fish?

May 23, 2014

Tomorrow is World Fish Migration Day (WFMD). The ancient migration story of fish ascending rivers from oceans to breed is miraculous.  Such fish – called anadromous, from the Greek word  “anadramein” meaning “running upward” – include salmon, steelhead, shad, sturgeon, lamprey in the Pacific Northwest; and shad, sturgeon, alewives and herring along the US East Coast.

USA:  Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ilwaco mural of salmon

USA: Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ilwaco mural of salmon

Anadromous fish swim from the sea inland via open rivers to spawn in small headwater tributaries. In so doing, they bring with them marine nutrients that enrich riverine flora, fauna and forests.  After their long journeys back to where they were born, the adult fish release their eggs in cool, forested waters and then die.  Thus, some hail anadromous fish as the greatest parents of all, because the nutrients of their remains nourish the flies and insects that are eaten by newly-hatched smolt.

This month, our NWNL Snake River Expedition is documenting the dynamics of anadromous fish in the Pacific Northwest and the studies of local fish biologists, fishermen, watershed managers and the Nez Perce tribal nation.  Today, NWNL joins them and the world in honoring the ecosystem services and sustenance values provided by anadromous fish.

Canada:  British Columbia, Winlaw, Slocan River Valley, salmon mural

Canada: British Columbia, Winlaw, Slocan River Valley, salmon mural

*Check out 10 (very interesting!) Things You Might Not Know About Migratory Fish.

Our Great Migrators

May 21, 2014

*NWNL thoughts prior to World Fish Migration Day-5/24.*

Many are unaware of the exquisite sarabande of life personified by our migratory species: anadromous fish, birds, monarch butterflies, dragonflies and others.

Most migratory species are threatened in one form or another during their annual passages by manmade impediments. Today, on expedition along the Snake River, NWNL is following the struggle of the Columbia River migratory salmon, steelhead and lamprey to overcome dams, pollution, warmer streams and other challenges as they seek their traditional spawning grounds. Fish passages at dams and fish hatcheries have helped them avoid extinction, but more help is needed to bring back healthy numbers of salmon.

US: Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, bypass for juvenile salmon migrating downstream.

Columbia/Snake River system is #1 in West Coast wood exports

May 16, 2014
Timber ready to be loaded onto barges for a ride down the Snake River to the mouth of the Columbia River in Portland. Photo by Barbara Folger.

Timber ready to be loaded onto barges for a ride down the Snake River to the mouth of the Columbia River in Portland. Photo by Barbara Folger.

The Columbia Snake River system is a vital transportation link for the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The economies of these four states rely on the trade and commerce
that flows up and down the most important commercial waterway
of the Northwest.*

Pulp that can be used to make paperboard, for items like juice boxes, is loaded onto a barge on the Snake River at the Port of Wilma. Photo by Barbara Folger.

Pulp, used to make paperboard for items like juice boxes, is loaded onto a barge on the Snake River at the Port of Wilma. Photo by Barbara Folger.

 

*See Fact Sheet from Pacific Northwest Waterways Association.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Preserving the beautiful Snake River!

May 14, 2014
Snake River in Idaho - Photo by Barbara Folger.

Snake River in Idaho – Photo by Barbara Folger.

NWNL Expedition Photographers are zigzagging with the Snake River, focusing on infrastructure, watershed management, agriculture, biodiversity and impacts of climate and pollution on river health.

Disparity in Rainfall between Pacific Northwest and California

March 26, 2014

The latest Columbia Basin Bulletin reports that the US Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from the Dworshak Dam to make room for anticipated above average inflows from the spring snow melts, that have already started. The Dworshak Dam is on the north fork of the Clearwater River in west central Idaho and empties into the Snake River just above the big four Lower Snake River Dams. The storage reservoir water level behind the Dworshak Dam rose six feet between March 1st and March 15th. This is good news for migrating salmon and for the hydro power that these dams produce, but bad news for Californians who didn’t get needed water.

Californians continue to look square in the face of a continued and serious drought. On the California Data Exchange Center’s website for March 20th, there is not one reservoir that is 100% full. The range is 21% to 53% of total capacity except Pyramid and Castaic Lakes, which are 86% and 92% respectively. California is nearing the end of its rainy season and there has not been enough rainfall or snow accumulation to fill these reservoirs. From the Klamoth River in the north of the state to the Colorado Desert in the south, the percent of historic average rainfall in each of the 36 measured areas averages about 29%.

NOAA produced a map of recent precipitation in the West, above left. This shows the higher rainfall in the Pacific Northwest and west central Idaho and dry conditions southward. What is more disturbing is the NOAA map showing the precipitation average over the past 3 years, above right. The end is not in sight.

BF_DSC2805*Posted from San Francisco by Barbara Folger, NWNL Project Coordinator

 

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