Bonneville Power Administration’s disinformation on salmon recovery

“Salmon success recasts debate,” headline reads. . . an odd way of defining “success”-

BPA’s spin cloaks its role in blocking real salmon recovery. By Ed Chaney. Idaho Statesman

Resurgent Northwest salmon show dam ‘spill’ is better than barging

The fish do better in the river than they do in a barge.

I’m not really a fan of Rocky Barker because I think he is biased towards the collaborative process because it has worked within the framework of the Snake River salmon and steelhead issue. When contrasted with other collaborative processes this issue has a fundamental difference, Judge Redden and the force of federal law. Because of this there is accountability to the “best available science” mandated by the Endangered Species Act not just the whims of people who want to go along to get along as happens with other collaborative groups.

What biologists have known for a long time about salmon is that they do much better when they migrate to the ocean in the river over the dams and not through them, they also know that when they are captured and carried down river in a barge they are exposed to all kinds of disease and are less fit to deal with the transition from fresh to salt water once they are released downstream of Bonneville Dam. More of the barged fish suffered “delayed mortality” than those that migrated downriver on their own.

As an activist, I feel that recovery of salmon and steelhead calls for more than just a minimum population of fish returning to their spawning grounds but rather flourishing population that contributes to the whole ecosystem of the rivers which were once blessed with millions of fish each year. The historic runs of salmon and steelhead had immense influence on the productivity of the ecosystem and provided crucial nutrients to the central Idaho streams they still sparsely inhabit. True recovery should require the removal of the 4 Lower Snake River dams.

Resurgent Northwest salmon show dam ‘spill’ is better than barging
Rocky Barker – The Idaho Statesman.

Hatch-22: The Problem with the Pacific Salmon Resurgence

More salmon but more of them are of hatchery origin

The proportion of hatchery versus wild Pacific salmon has risen to 1 in 5 with an overall production of 5 billion smolts produced annually, up from just 500 million in 1970. There are problems which stem from this. For imperiled salmon, the competition and genetic implications from these hatchery fish can be profound and effect the survivability of the runs which face the highest risk.

Hatch-22: The Problem with the Pacific Salmon Resurgence.
By Bruce Barcott – AlterNet

Obama, like Bush, seems to be stifling salmon science

Manipulation of science remains the same or worse.

In the first year and a half of the Obama Administration nothing has really changed with regard to environmental policy across several agencies. In fact, I think it has gotten worse for two reasons. One, things haven’t changed, and two, people just want to believe that Obama cares about the environment. The BLM and USFS still willfully break the law in their grazing decisions, the MMS issued categorical exclusions for deepwater oil drilling, and now it appears that biologists are still being pressured to manipulate science surrounding salmon to protect dams.

Obama, like Bush, seems to be stifling salmon science.
Crosscut.com

Idaho sockeye numbers cause for hope

Another good year for Idaho’s sockeye salmon?

Redfish Lake © Ken Cole

Redfish Lake © Ken Cole

134,000 164,000 sockeye have crossed Bonneville Dam which is more than 3 times the 10-year average. Most of those are heading to lakes in Washington State but a few are returning to lakes in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. During the last two years Idaho saw exceptionally high returns of sockeye in comparison to many of the previous years where only a handful of fish returned.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s really talk about taking down those Snake River dams

The merits of dam removal discussed.

There has been an ongoing discussion about the removal of the Lower Snake River dams for many years, in fact, there was opposition to building them in the first place due to concerns about salmon runs. This article examines the pros and cons of dam removal and I think that the pros far outweigh the cons.

Many people see that runs of salmon have been fairly strong during the last 10 years but they fail to realize that these runs are primarily hatchery fish that compete in many ways with the wild fish that are truly in danger of extinction.
Read the rest of this entry »

Feds: No major changes for Columbia Basin salmon

Judge Redden said the Bush Plan for salmon wasn’t good enough, Obama thinks it is.

Well, here is another example of how the Obama Administration has followed the lead of the Bush Administration on environmental issues. As we can see from the Gulf Oil Spill those policies are literally a disaster. While salmon returns have been good the last few years and numbers are high for returning Chinook this year, it should be pointed out that the bulk of these fish are hatchery fish and not those protected under the ESA. It should also be noted that the return of jacks, or male Chinook that spend only one year in the ocean as compared to two or three, is about 72% of the 10-year average which is an indication that next year’s run will likely be lower.

Read the rest of this entry »

Panel recommends spilling, barging of salmon

Mixed strategy recommended by independent panel for 2010

Chinook Salmon © Ken Cole

NOAA Fisheries wanted to barge all of the salmon from the Snake River around the dams and not spill any water over them because of the low water year that is predicted to be 54% of the normal flow. An independent panel said no and suggested that there be spill and barging due to a host of problems as a result of barging.

Some suggest that NOAA Fisheries wanted to avoid spilling so that more power could be generated by the dams.

Meanwhile the chinook salmon are returning in high numbers over Bonneville Dam with 7762 on the 19th and a cumulative total of 47721 spring chinook this year. You can see the numbers at the Fish Passage Center website.

Panel recommends spilling, barging of salmon
BY KEVIN MCCULLEN, HERALD STAFF WRITER

DAMS: Corps releases possible dam breaching plan of study

Plan required as part of the Adaptive Management Plan

The Army Corps of Engineers has released a plan of how they will study dam removal if it becomes necessary to remove one or more of the four Lower Snake River dams.

DAMS: Corps releases possible dam breaching plan of study
Tri-City Herald

Posted in endangered species act, Fish, Snake River Salmon. Tags: , . Comments Off on DAMS: Corps releases possible dam breaching plan of study

Judge finds fault with federal salmon plan

Are we one step closer to removal of the Snake River Dams?

Judge finds fault with federal salmon plan. Conservation groups optimistic about order. By Jon Duval. Idaho Mountain Express.

These dams are on the lower Snake River. That’s in the state of Washington, but they greatly harm salmon and steelhead migration to and from Idaho to the ocean. For years, steelheaders and other conservationists have wanted these nagivation dams breeched and the government has opposed it. Judge Redden (see article) has been monitoring  government efforts to comply with the Endangered Species Act on the matter, and he is not pleased.

Entire books have been writing about the issue.

Fate of Idaho salmon plays out in tiny Marsh Creek

Wild salmon increasingly spawn in tiny Marsh Creek and other small central Idaho waters-

Fate of Idaho salmon plays out in tiny Marsh Creek. The fish that spawn here are among the most vulnerable in the region. Will Obama’s plan help if the population plummets? By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

About 5 years ago, I saw my first spawning wild salmon in Idaho in Marsh Creek. Great!

Marsh Creek Meadows and the distant Sawtooth Mountains. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Record returns for sockeye salmon in Sawtooth Valley

833 sockeye made the trip back to the Sawtooth Valley from the ocean this year-

This is a great success from the not too distant past when only one salmon returned — “Lonesum Larry”

Record sockeye salmon return. By Jon Duval. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer

More of Obama’s weak salmon recovery plan

Obama’s “warmed-over-Dubya plan” for salmon is good enough to irritate Rep. Doc Hastings, however-

We posted on this earlier. Reaction continues to come.

Under Obama’s new salmon plan, breeching the dams on the Snake River in that state of Washington would be a last resort, rather than the plan salmon recovery advocates had hoped for and kind of expected. Under Bush breaching the dams wasn’t to be considered under any condition.

However, the new plan’s critics call it “warmed over Bush.” It isn’t so much salmon advocates that Obama has to please, however, it is federal judge Redden. Redden in the past has rejected five biOps (biological opinions from various Administrations) of how they can keep the dams and recovery the salmon too. The standard they have used is that their plan will keep the salmon “trended toward recovery.” This standard is not recognized by Endangered Species Act, but Obama, like Bush uses it.

Conservation groups hope the Redden rejects this plan and says he is out of patience. Tear down the dams. Redden has said in the past that he might do just that.

Nevertheless, the hint of breaching in the new plan has the local Republican representative “Doc Hastings” upset. It seems to me that this is another situation where the President could educate the Republicans that militant opposition to his policies has a cost.

Rocky Barker put up a video of Hastings cross examining the NOAA Administrator explaining the dam breaching possibility.

Obama Repackages Bush Salmon Plan

Calls Dam Breaching a “Last Resort”

Chinook Salmon © Ken Cole

Chinook Salmon © Ken Cole

“The administration’s passing reference to dam breaching as a ‘contingency of last resort’ defers all necessary economic, infrastructure and other studies, making this ‘contingency’ an illusion,” said Samuel N. Penney, the chairman of the Nez Perce American Indian Tribe, which has traditionally fished the Columbia.

New Federal Plan for Fish-Dam Harmony
New York Times

Obama administration backs Columbia salmon and dam plan
Rocky Barker – Idaho Statesman

A new twist in dam removal on the Snake River

My biggest Chinook. © Ken Cole

My biggest Chinook. © Ken Cole

Recently Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) announced that in talks about salmon recovery that dam breaching should be on the table. It’s not an endorsement of dam breaching but it is a departure from former Senator Craig’s stance.

On top of this development comes a letter to politicians signed by several business owners in Lewiston and Clarkston who will be affected whatever happens to the dams.

If the dams are breached then river transportation will go away. If they stay then the cities will require significant infrastructure to keep the rising waters from flooding them due to the fact that the dams are filling with sediment.

One interesting thing mentioned in the letter is that the promised economic boom from dam construction never came.

I argue that the dams should be removed for various reasons, not least of which being the ecological benefits of recovered salmon.

A new twist in dam removal on the Snake River
By Lance Dickie
Seattle Times editorial columnist

Crapo takes a politically risky stand for salmon
Commentary: Kevin Richert – Idaho Statesman

Idaho Sockeye Returning at Record Numbers

As of 7/13/09 914 sockeye salmon have crossed Lower Granite Dam.

Sockeye Salmon in Sawtooth Hatchery trap 2008 © Ken Cole

Sockeye Salmon in Sawtooth Hatchery Trap 2008 © Ken Cole

Last year was a record for modern times when 909 Sockeye Salmon passed over Lower Granite Dam and 450 plus 650 returned to the Sawtooth Valley. This year there have been 914 so far and the run is not over. There was a year when only one male made the 900-mile journey. He was dubbed Lonesome Larry.  In 1990 there were none.

To put this year’s and last year’s returns into perspective I grabbed this from the IDFG Fact Sheet on Sockeye:

“Between 1991 and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye salmon returned to Idaho. All of these adults were incorporated into the captive breeding program and spawned at the Eagle Fish Hatchery.

The program releases eggs and fish back to the habitat in a variety of ways. Eyed-eggs are planted in egg boxes and placed in lakes in the fall, presmolts are released directly to lakes in the fall, smolts are released to outlet streams in the spring, and prespawn adults are released to lakes in the fall. A monitoring and evaluation effort is in place to document the success of the different reintroduction strategies.

Over the eight years between 1999 and 2007, 355 hatchery-produced adult, sockeye salmon returned to the Sawtooth Valley. For comparison, in the 14 years from 1985 through 1998, 77 natural-origin sockeye salmon returned to Idaho.”

Idaho Sockeye Numbers Beating Last Year’s Record
NW Fishletter

Judge faults gov’t plan to save Pacific NW salmon

U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden tells Federal Government to come up with backup plan to breach dams.

Hatchery Chinook Salmon in the South Fork Salmon River.  
© Ken Cole

Hatchery Chinook Salmon in the South Fork Salmon River. © Ken Cole

Judge faults gov’t plan to save Pacific NW salmon
Associated Press

The four dams on the lower Snake River, Lower Granite Dam, Little Goose Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, and Ice Harbor Dam, were originally built for navigation purposes so that Lewiston Idaho could become a sea port. The river provides subsidized transportation for the Palouse region’s wheat and other products but there are other options for them including the existing rail system. The dams don’t generate much in the way of electricity either and when they generate the most, during spring runoff, the demand isn’t at its high as it would be during the heat of the summer when people use it for air conditioning. Because of this the Bonneville Power Administration sells it at very low rates to aluminum smelters on the Columbia River. During the Enron contrived “power crisis” the subsidized electricity was re-sold at a profit by the aluminum smelters instead of letting water pass over the spillways to benefit salmon during the low water year.

The dams disrupt many natural conditions on the river and kill juvenile fish on their downstream migration. Their impact on returning adult salmon is lower but they do cause issues by raising the temperature which diverts a number of Idaho bound late summer, early fall-run steelhead into cooler rivers like the Deschutes River in Oregon.

Several Native American tribes, Idaho, Montana and Washington have engaged in a collaborative process in an attempt at saving the dams but the Spokane and Nez Perce Tribes and are siding with the environmental groups.

Todd True, attorney for the legal group Earthjustice, had this to say about the collaborative process being utilized to come up with a solution.

“Salmon don’t swim in collaboration,” Todd True said. “They won’t return in greater numbers because of a new collaboration — no matter how sincere.”