Northwest Hydropower News

Bonneville Dam sockeye salmon run notches record

By: Mike Prager
The Spokesman-Review

The growing abundance of sockeye salmon on the Columbia River reached a new milestone this week with passage of another record run at Bonneville Dam.

It is the third record-breaking run in the past five years.

Through Wednesday, the sockeye count at Bonneville Dam stood at 539,225 fish, with the run reaching its latter stages. Record-keeping dates to 1938, when fish counts began at Bonneville.

This year’s run eclipsed the old record of 520,959 sockeye in 2012, which came after a 2010 record run of 386,525 sockeye.

Last year’s return was 186,100 sockeye.

“It’s amazing,” said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist based in Vancouver, Washington. “The run is still coming.” Read more

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As dams fall, Elwha River makes stunning recovery

By: Phuong Le
The Spokesman-Review

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – The final chunks of concrete are expected to fall this September in the nation’s largest dam-removal project, but nature already is reclaiming the Elwha River on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

So much sediment, once trapped in reservoirs behind two hydroelectric dams, has flowed downstream that it has dramatically reshaped the river’s mouth, replenished eroding beaches and created new habitat for marine creatures not observed there in years.

Meanwhile, Chinook salmon and steelhead have been streaming into stretches of the Elwha River and its tributaries previously blocked by the Elwha Dam, which stood for nearly a century before it came down in 2012.

With the first dam gone, the ocean-migrating fish have been swimming as far upriver as they can. Scientists have observed them at the base of the second 210-foot-tall Glines Canyon Dam about 13 miles upstream, as if they want to continue on. Read more

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What Can the Northwest Do Best in Clean Energy?

By: Benjamin Romano
Xconomy

The Pacific Northwest has a burgeoning clean energy industry, underpinned by strong public research institutions, active angel investors, and an environmental ethos that’s part of the culture. But leaders in the field argue that the region could do more if it united behind a few key areas where it could be the best in the country.

“What do we want to be known for?” asked Jud Virden, associate director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, during the Washington Clean Technology Alliance showcase event in Seattle Monday.

Washington and the broader Pacific Northwest already have leading positions in energy efficiency, smart grid, and biofuels development, particularly for the aviation industry. Now, the state is emerging as a key technology development and testing hub for large-scale energy storage systems, with some big steps forward on that front expected later this summer. Read more

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Columbia River salmon plan challenged

By: Staff
The Spokesman-Review

Conservation groups and fishing interests have challenged the federal government’s latest plan for making Columbia River dams safe for salmon runs.

The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland against NOAA Fisheries Service, which oversees salmon protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the dams.

Joseph Bogaard of Save Our Wild Salmon says the plan is “virtually indistinguishable” from the one overturned by a federal court three years ago. He says efforts to develop a better plan through collaboration, rather than litigation, were rebuffed. Read more

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Salmon munching sea lions at Bonneville Dam shifting to different species, new problems

By: Thomas Boyd
The Oregonian

 

New data suggest that while fewer California sea lions are showing up at Bonneville Dam and eating fewer spring salmon than just a few years ago, the number of Steller sea lions could be increasing, and along with them, the volume of salmon they eat.

 

Data also show over the last several years that sea lions — mostly Stellers — are increasingly showing up in the fall to prey on that fish run.

 

Experts say these two factors mean there’s a chance the sea lion removal program, which includes trapping and killing animals, could be expanded to new species and seasons. Read more

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Studies question budget for purchase of PPL Mont. dams

By: Marc Stergionis
Great Falls Tribune

There’s been a flood of documents washing into the Public Service Commission over NorthWestern Energy’s agreement to purchase PPL Montana’s 11 electricity-producing dams.

Some of those documents — recent consultant and agency analyses — spark big questions among consumer advocates and, although they may not short-circuit the deal, they are raising temperatures on both sides of the issue as the PSC gears up to make a decision on the purchase. Read more

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Army Corps of Engineers to kill 16,000 cormorants on East Sand Island in Columbia River Estuary

By: Rob Davis
The Oregonian

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans Thursday to shoot and kill 16,000 double-crested cormorants on an island near the Columbia River’s mouth starting next spring, in an effort to improve survival of endangered juvenile salmon and steelhead.

 The cormorants, black seabirds increasingly nesting on East Sand Island, feed on juvenile fish swimming out to the Pacific Ocean. They’ve been eating those migrating smolts in growing numbers, enough that scientists say it’s impacting the species’ survival rates.

The Army Corps, which manages hydropower dams throughout the Northwest, aims to kill about 20 percent of the cormorant population on East Sand Island each year. Read more

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Prior agreement to phase out Centralia coal plant will cover most emissions reductions

A sweeping new White House plan to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s energy supply may have less impact on Washington than almost every other state. But that’s because the country is just now catching up.

By: Craig Welch
The Seattle Times

You could argue that Washington had it easier all along, with abundant rivers that provide cheap hydropower and an economy that didn’t depend on coal.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

Back in 2000, West Virginia, with half as many people, produced four times more carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity generation as Washington — almost all of it from that state’s politically powerful, jobs-producing coal industry.

While even West Virginia burns far more natural gas than it once did, its total CO2 emissions have merely stayed the same. Washington’s emissions during the same time dropped more than 20 percent and just keep falling.

In fact, Washington has made so much progress weaning itself from coal-fired energy that our state may well meet the Obama administration’s new climate goals by doing little more than maintaining the status quo. Read more

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Juvenile salmon get helicopter parenting

Utility uses tagged fish to check migration systems’ efficiency

Christine Pratt
Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE – See any helicopters dipping baskets into the Columbia River below Rock Island Dam lately? It’s not what you may be thinking.

The Grant County Public Utility District is using a helicopter to release tagged juvenile salmon into the river to track their movements through Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams.

The two dams are both south of the Interstate 90 bridge at Vantage. The Wanapum Dam reservoir backs up to the Chelan County Public Utility District’s Rock Island Dam.

The helicopter should be in the vicinity of Rock Island Dam, possibly the Tarpiscan area, between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. daily for the next two weeks to release the fish, Grant County PUD spokesman Chuck Allen said. Read more

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BMW plans big expansion of Moses Lake carbon-fiber plant

Thanks to Eastern Washington’s cheap and renewable hydroelectricity, Moses Lake will have “the largest carbon-fiber plant on earth,” a German auto executive leading the project said Friday.

By: Dominic Gates
The Seattle Times

MOSES LAKE — By early next year, drawn by the cheap and renewable hydroelectricity of Eastern Washington, this state will have “the largest carbon-fiber plant on Earth,” a German executive leading the project said Friday.

Amid the dirt fields outside this modest farming town, where a stiff wind blows tumbleweeds across the highway, a gleaming $200 million factory already makes the carbon-fiber threads that become the tough carbon composite shell of BMW’s i-series electric and hybrid cars.

An additional $100 million investment announced Friday, coupled with an earlier expansion now nearly complete, will triple the plant’s annual capacity to 9,000 tons of carbon fiber. Read More

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