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.

Federal biologists say that cutting hatchery production could help protect wild salmon

It is an argument for removing dams as well.

For many years biologists have known that hatchery fish effect the fitness of wild fish through competition and interbreeding. Hatchery fish don’t have the selective pressures that wild fish do so are less fit to survive in the wild. Because of this, when hatchery fish breed with wild fish the progeny are less suited to survive in the wild affecting the overall survival of wild fish.

Hatchery fish are also larger and more aggressive than wild fish and compete with them for food further limiting the success of wild fish. Being more aggressive makes hatchery fish more vulnerable to predators, a trait that you don’t want to transfer to wild fish. Hatchery fish also stray more so they can interbreed with runs which are managed to be exclusively wild such as the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

In the case of steelhead, hatchery fish virtually flood the habitat with stray fish, a situation that almost ensures that hatchery fish will interbreed with wild fish in places where it is not intended.

I think the report mentioned is more of an argument for removing dams than it is for reducing hatchery production because, due to the impacts of lower numbers of fish in the short term like economic and biological impacts, you can’t reduce hatchery production without increasing the success of wild fish reproduction. The only way to increase wild fish production to such a degree will be to remove dams.

Federal biologists say that cutting hatchery production could help protect wild salmon
By Scott Learn, The Oregonian

Posted in endangered species act, Fish. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Federal biologists say that cutting hatchery production could help protect wild salmon

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.

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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.
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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.

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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

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

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.”

Columbia salmon plan goes before judge for third try

Is the Third Time a Charm?

Perhaps no person has more control over the fate of Columbia River salmon and dams today than a 79-year-old Red Sox fan who doesn’t fish or much care for the taste of salmon. U.S. District Judge James Redden is expected to rule as early as next month in the long-running case over whether dams on the Columbia River system are doing enough to protect endangered fish.

Columbia salmon plan goes before judge for third try

By Warren Cornwall – Seattle Times environment reporter

The Judge has threatened to take over management himself if he is not satisfied with the latest recovery plan.

Update:

NW council approves Columbia River management plan