Monthly Archives: August 2012

Demolition Of Washington’s Condit Dam Nearing Completion

By Northwest News Network

Federal regulators have granted a short extension to complete the removal of Condit Dam on southwest Washington’s White Salmon River. Originally, demolition crews were supposed to be done with the nearly year-long project by Friday.

The hydropower dam’s owner asked for and received a two week extension from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Portland-based utility PacifiCorp now has until Sept 15th to take out the last bits of what was once 125-foot tall Condit Dam.

Utility spokesman Tom Gauntt says the dam is all gone except for some stubborn footings and an arch. Read more.

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Pikeminnow pursuit

By Allen Thomas
The Columbian

RUFUS, Ore. — Rick Farris cast the 3-ounce cannonball sinker and pearl Gitzit tube off the John Day Dam powerhouse into the roiling waters of the Columbia River. He bounced the offering almost 200 yards downstream before feeling the tug of a northern pikeminnow. Instinctively, he set the hook and slowly retrieved the line, fighting the fish and the strong and swirling current.

Farris winched the pikeminnow up the front of the powerhouse, unhooked it and marked the size of fish and time of catch on a tally sheet.

“I had 190 one week,” said Farris, a resident of The Dalles. “We were really cranking them out.”

Farris is a dam angler.

He’s part of a four-member crew paid hourly to fish from mid-May to mid-September off the front of The Dalles and John Day dams in the joint state-federal effort to reduce the pikeminnow population in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Pikeminnows are effective predators of young salmon and steelhead migrating downstream. Eighty-two percent of young salmon and steelhead consumed by fish in the Columbia are taken by pikeminnow.

The dam anglers are an adjunct to a popular sport-reward program that pays sportsmen up to $8 per pikeminnow to remove the predators from the river.

Farris said he has a good job, but it can still be work, especially when the temperature on the powerhouse exceeds 100 degrees.

“It is a lot of fun until the last month when your legs are dead and your arms are tired,” he said. “It’s still fishing and it’s still fun, but bodies wear out.”

There are lots of pikeminnows immediately below the dams, but sport reward anglers are not allowed on the dams due to the obvious security concerns, said Eric Winther, northern pikeminnow program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The dam anglers get after those fish. In the early 1990s, tribal fishermen worked the dams for four or five years. Then, about a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took over.

Three years ago, dam angling became part of the state-federal pikeminnow program, which is financed by the Bonneville Power Administration.

In 2011, the dam anglers caught about 4,526 pikeminnows, with 1,204 coming from The Dalles Dam and 3,322 from John Day.

Winther said the fishing is better early in the season at The Dalles and best late at John Day.

Catching pikeminnows at the dam is not like trout in a hatchery.

“You have to be in touch with the bottom,” Winther said. “It takes time to get the hang of it.”

Not just pikeminnows are caught.

“There are a fair amount of smallmouth and walleye, plus a few channel catfish,” Winther said. “Sometimes, we’ll hook a sturgeon. A salmon or steelhead is pretty rare.”

Farris said the sturgeon are no fun.

“You’ll hook into a 30- to 32-inch sturgeon,” he said. “They are not quite big enough to break off. You fight them and they wear you out.”

Winther said the Gitzit tubes have proven to be the crew’s most effective lures.

“We haven’t found anything better and don’t want a bycatch of sturgeon or salmon that you would get with bait,” he said.

Pearl, shad and rainbow trout were the most productive colors on Aug. 16, but dark smoke hologram and black copper glitter have been the top producers by far during the past three seasons.

Once the summer sun reaches over the powerhouse wall, the temperatures soar.

“It was 80 degrees at 10 a.m. the other day,” said Scott Mengis, another dam angler. “At 11:15, it was 120 degrees. You drink lots of fluids.”

Winther said the winds of the Columbia Gorge also can make conditions tough.

“The wind can be a pain,” he said. “It blows in your face. It wears on you. It makes it harder to fish.”

Marikay Jester, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biological technician, samples the stomach contents of the pikeminnow.

She finds small lamprey, shad, crawfish and bass as well as young salmon and steelhead.

“They are very opportunistic feeders,” Jester said.

Miroslav Zyndol, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist at John Day Dam, lauded the dam angling program.”This area is restricted to the public, but this is an area with a lot of pikeminnow available,” Zyndol said. “We see evidence by the number of fish caught it’s a pretty big problem.”

Farris said over the course of the summer he’ll occasionally lasso a pikeminnow without actually having a hook in the fish.

“Anybody can catch them,” he said. “It takes someone special to lasso them.”

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Federal power turned Northwest’s ‘darkness to dawn’

By Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman

Few projects carried the hope and hubris of the New Deal more than the Bonneville Power Act. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the law creating the Bonneville Power Administration 75 years ago tomorrow. His dream was to harness the Columbia River and turn nature’s flows into electricity to power industry, provide jobs to lift the poor out of poverty and transform the life and economy of the Pacific Northwest.

“This vast water power can be of incalculable value to this whole section of the country,” Roosevelt said in a speech in Portland in 1932. “It means cheap manufacturing production, economy and comfort on the farm and in the household.” Read more.

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Hearing on Hastings’ bill points up divide between fish, hydropower forces

By Mike Faulk
Yakima Herald-Republic

PASCO — Using his hometown soapbox to hammer away at those who would remove hydropower dams, U.S. Rep. Doc Hasting on Wednesday gaveled a congressional committee to order on legislation that would dramatically limit the use of federal funds for dam-removal efforts.

Hastings’ “Saving Our Dams and Hydropower Development and Jobs Act of 2012” would strip funding from environmental groups that want to remove hydropower dams and prohibit the use of federal dollars to remove them drew pointed comments at a field hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“The threat to the Snake River and other dams is very real,” U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings said in opening statements. The measure is HB 6247.

But opponents of the bill, including environmental, fishing and American Indian groups, say it would punish advocates who call for the removal of obsolete dams that hurt traditional fish habitats. Consolidating oversight and decision-making over dams into the hands of Congress, as called for in the bill, would only lead to more gridlock of the environmental and economic impact of dams nationwide, witnesses said. Read more.

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Clark Public Utilities exceeds efficiency goals

By Staff
The Columbian

Vancouver — Washington’s 17 largest electric utilities, including Clark Public Utilities, have exceeded initial energy efficiency goals of the state’s voter-approved clean energy law and easily exceeded its renewables standard, according to a new report from the Northwest Energy Coalition. Read more.

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Bonneville Dam fulfilled campaign promise when FDR dedicated it Sept. 28, 1937

President Franklin D. Roosevelt fulfilled a campaign promise when construction on the $88.4 million project started in 1934.

Named for Army Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, an early explorer of what became the Oregon Trail, Bonneville Dam boasted some unique engineering designs.

Colonial-revival-style architecture was featured in the administration buildings.

The powerhouse on the Washington side opened in 1981 and the modern navigation lock in 1993. The 97-acre district around the dam was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Read more.

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$60M energy-saving project for Longview paper mill

Associated Press
Seattle Times

LONGVIEW, Wash. — Officials expect a $60 million energy conservation project at the Norpac paper mill in Longview will make it more competitive and save electricity for the region.

The Daily News reports (http://is.gd/wo4QSe) the new equipment celebrated at a ribbon-cutting Thursday will reduce the amount of energy used at the mill, which is jointly owned by Weyerhaeuser and Nippon Paper Industries of Japan.

Weyerhaeuser is financing $35 million of the project. The Cowlitz PUD is contributing $4 million and the Bonneville Power Administration $21 million. They say the improvements at the mill will save low-cost hydropower and reduce the utility’s need to buy more-expensive energy. Read more.

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