News: Environment

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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Judge rejects feds’ Columbia River salmon plan, calls for a rewrite

By Kelly House
Oregonian

A federal judge has ruled for the fourth time that the U.S. government’s plan to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin fails to address the federal hydropower dams’ effect on fish.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon on Wednesday gave the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration two years to write a new plan that does more to protect fish. Read more

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Spokane Tribe will study salmon habitat above Grand Coulee Dam

By Becky Kramer
Spokesman Review

The Spokane Tribe of Indians has received $200,000 to study whether salmon would thrive above Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council approved the funding last week for the habitat assessment. The work is part of an investigation into whether salmon and steelhead could be successfully reintroduced above the tall dams, which were built without fish ladders decades ago. Read More

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Salmon habitat preparation delayed for Yale Reservoir

By Al Thomas
The Columbian

State and federal fishery officials, along with PacifiCorp, have agreed to delay the preparation of Yale Reservoir and its tributaries for the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead.

PacifiCorp’s federal license to operate Merwin, Yale and Swift hydroelectric dams on the North Fork of the Lewis River calls for the utility to have a downstream fish passage facility at Yale Dam operational by June 26, 2021.

The settlement agreement between PacifiCorp and the fish agencies, Forest Service, Indian tribes and local governments also requires a “habitat preparation plan’’ beginning five years prior to fish passage. Read more

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Lamprey found above Condit Dam site on White Salmon River

By Tammy Ayer
Yakima Herald

Pacific lamprey, an ancient native fish with notable cultural and ecological significance, have returned to the White Salmon River above the former site of Condit Dam.

The fact that the lamprey have been found above the former dam location signals an important step forward in habitat restoration, lamprey conservation and partnership in the Columbia River Basin, officials with the Yakama Nation and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said in a news release Friday. Read More

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Conservation can likely meet power needs of Northwest states

By Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press
Spokesman Review

The electricity needs of Northwest states can be met in the next 20 years mostly through conservation efforts, with little need to construct new power plants, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council predicted.

The Portland-based council recently issued its 20-year plan for meeting the energy needs of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Read more.

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Columbia Basin breaking records for returning fall chinook salmon

By George Plaven
Seattle Times

PENDLETON, Ore. — The Columbia Basin’s 2015 salmon season is the second-strongest year since the federal dams were built nearly 80 years ago.

A record number of fall chinook salmon returned up the Columbia River past McNary Dam in 2015, continuing on to spawning grounds at Hanford Reach, the Snake River and Yakima Basin.

More than 456,000 of the fish were counted at McNary Dam, breaking the facility’s previous record of 454,991 set in 2013. An estimated 200,000 fall chinook made it back to Hanford Reach, the most since hydroelectric dams were first built on the Columbia nearly 80 years ago. Read more

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