Monthly Archives: July 2016

The surprisingly bright future of America’s forgotten renewable energy source: water

By Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis
Washington Post

Long before wind and solar, water was the nation’s top renewable energy source. Going back some 100 years, the United States built enormous dams — like the Depression-era Hoover Dam in Nevada — to produce tremendous amounts of energy.

We have so many such dams that hydropower last year remained our fourth largest source of electricity overall and our single largest renewable source, providing 6 percent of Americans’ electricity. Yet it’s rarely talked about and lacks the excitement attached to other renewables. That’s in part because dams are controversial and can have major environmental consequences, affecting wildlife and altering local ecosystems. New ones also are expensive to build.

“A lot of people, when they think about hydro, they don’t think that there’s much growth opportunity,” said Jose Zayas, who directs the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy. “We wanted to really quantify the benefits of hydro.” Read More

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Study says drawing down Lower Granite Reservoir during summer could help fish

By Eric Barker
Spokesman Review

Drawing down Lower Granite Reservoir during summer heatwaves could be an effective tool to help sockeye salmon and other protected fish by mitigating high water temperatures, according to analysis performed by the Portland-based Fish Passage Center.

But just as it did in a 1992 experiment, a drawdown would also disrupt barge transportation on the lower Snake River, leave some recreational facilities high and dry, and cause some riverside highways and railroad beds to sag and crack.

At the request of the Nez Perce Tribe and the state of Oregon, the center that is funded by Pacific Northwest hydropower ratepayers analyzed the feasibility of lowering the lower Snake River behind Lower Granite Dam from its present elevation of about 733 feet above sea level to as low as 690 feet. Doing so would reduce the surface area exposed to solar radiation, speed the pace of the river and increase the effectiveness of cold water releases from Dworshak Reservoir. Read More

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Study Analyzes Survival Tests for Young Salmon/Steelhead Moving Downriver Through Columbia/Snake Dams

By Staff Reporter
Columbia Basin Bulletin

Results of survival tests for young salmon and steelhead that migrate to the ocean through six Federal Columbia River Power System dams all generally exceeded the survival requirements of NOAA Fisheries’ 2008 FCRPS biological opinion for Columbia River salmon and steelhead, according to a recent study. Read More

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Judge Gives Feds Nearly Five Years to Complete NEPA Process For New Basin Salmon/Steelhead Recovery Plan

By Staff Reporter
Columbia Basin Bulletin

The federal judge presiding over the rewriting of the recovery plan for thirteen species of Columbia River salmon and steelhead says a thorough National Environmental Policy Act review is more important than the shortened remand schedule proposed by the litigation’s plaintiffs. Read More

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Lawsuit targets dam operators over impacts to bull trout

By Kate Prengaman
Yakima Herald

Dam operators across the Columbia River Basin are not doing enough to protect endangered bull trout, according to allegations in a federal lawsuit filed this week.

Two Bureau of Reclamation facilities on the Yakima River are mentioned in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court by the Montana-based environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies.  Read More

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EWEB sells Smith Creek dam for $22.1 million to pay down debt

By Christian Hill
Eugene Register Guard

The Eugene Water & Electric Board has sold its hydro­electric project in Idaho and will use the money from the sale to pay down debt, but it must continue buying power from the dam’s new owner at below-market rates for the next three years. Read more

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