Although the Bonneville dam has reduced the possibility of flooding, the City of Portland remains vulnerable to flooding from the Columbia River. In recent years the river has been within inches of flooding downtown Portland. The most recent event occurred in February 1996. To quote Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., “So what do we get by removing the four Snake River dams? Shattered lives, displaced families and communities and generations of family farmers penniless.” In July 1999, the U.S. House Resources Committee passed a resolution by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash opposing the removal of dams. 6.1.2000 Unfortunately, uncovering a clear path to save fish is not easy. Fish recovery is hindered by conflicting goals and policies. For example, federal law protects migratory birds that are major salmon predators-up to 40 percent of some stocks are consumed by birds according to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) research. There are conflicts between hatchery and wild fish, between maintaining harvest and protecting endangered salmon. Dam removal advocates also would have you think it is a relatively simple process to uproot an economy built over decades. But, the costs of dam removal are very real, certain and severe. Conservative estimates show costs running to $360 million per year for up to 100 years. Ask what this number means to a worker when power costs at her aluminum plant increase by one million dollars per month. Ask barge operators on the Columbia who ship 43 percent of all U.S. wheat exports what happens when reservoirs and locks are eliminated. Or, ask a farmhand in Eastern Washington what happens when he is no longer able to irrigate high-value agricultural land. There are many social impacts to removing the dams and/or lowering height of the reservoirs. Downriver of the dams, the most significant impact would be lost agricultural production. There is also some concern that breaching the four lower Snake River dams could eventually lead to the dams on the Columbia River being breached. Opponents of the John Day dam say it is the deadliest reservoir for salmon on the Columbia River. What the opponents want is to shrink the length of the reservoir and reduce the high water temperature around the dams. In their view, this would make migration easier for the salmon. They also believe that the lowered level would increase the spawning habitat by 35 miles on the upstream end of the reservoir. The Columbia Basin, Which Includes the Columbia and Snake Rivers, Has More Than 400 Dams. Out of the 400 dams, 28 are owned by the Federal Government. For some time now, the Pacific Northwest has been debating the pros and cons of destroying four of the Federally owned dams that produce hydroelectric power. These four plants are located on the Snake River. It is believed that removal of these dams will save the river’s salmon and steelhead fish. Our environment will pay also. Four million tons of commodities currently barged on the river will be shifted suddenly to other modes of transportation with five to nine times the harmful emissions. Along with added use of fossil fuels to replace the energy lost from the dams, this would put an additional 4.2 million tons of pollutants into our air each year according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Further, 75 million cubic yards of silt behind the dams would move down the river, increasing exposure to toxins and creating murky waters not suitable for fish for years to come. These enormous costs look even worse in light of the phantom benefits for fish. Studies by NMFS show that dam removal is inadequate to alleviate the risk of extinction. Fortunately (and contrary to public perception) this is not the only option on the table. The best new studies from federal scientists show that major efforts in the hydro system are paying off. Around 95 percent of the juvenile fish survive each project; some runs have survival numbers similar to before the dams were built. The Corps of Engineers is evaluating the benefits, feasibility and potential impact of drawing down the reservoirs behind four of the lower Snake River dams. Under this scenario, the reservoirs would be lowered substantially from their normal operating levels during migration of the juvenile salmon. The idea behind this is that by decreasing the cross-sectional size of the reservoirs the velocity of the river would increase. In theory, this would speed the rate at which the juvenile salmon could migrate past the dam. Therefore, the survival rate of the fish would be increased. To overcome the flooding problem, Congress, in the mid to late 1930s, authorized the construction of a number of dams for flood control and for the production of electricity. From 1938 through 1975, eight dams were constructed on the Columbia and Snake Rivers: According to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the juvenile bypass systems guide 80-90 percent of the steelhead salmon and 60-70 percent of the spring/summer Chinook salmon away from the turbines and into the bypass channels. To increase fish guidance efficiency, extended submerged screens have also been installed in front of the turbines at McNary, Lower Granite and Little Goose dams. Twitter Partial Dam Removal Voith Hydro supplying pumped storage equipment to pair with Idaho combined solar-wind project When constructed, the general consensus was the dams would cause the extinction of salmon. However, because of the dams’ benefits, most people were prepared to run the risk. During the planning stage for construction of the McNary dam, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that the dam would eventually exterminate the upriver salmon. In addition to changing the dam’s operation, they want action to be taken to reduce the impact from predators. Similarly, by increasing the river’s flow, it would be easier for the young fish to reach the ocean, they say. It has been proposed that four dams on the Snake River-Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor-be partially removed or major modifications made to them to reduce fish mortality. These four dams were all built with concrete powerhouses, spillways and navigation locks. The gaps between the concrete and the riverbanks were filled with soil. Under the partial removal plan, the earthen portion of the dams would be removed. Twitter Before the 1930s, the Columbia and Snake Rivers were free flowing. However, in their natural state, significant flooding occurred during periods of heavy rains. Besides the problems of flooding, utilization of the rivers for transportation by river barges and other craft was almost impossible. Social Issues It is time to address all of the aspects of the salmon lifecycle. If you had a garden hose with 10 leaks in it, and you mended only the most visible hole in the middle, then you would not be surprised to see that the hose still leaks. Farmers, forest land owners, electric utilities, barge operators, and employees of many other businesses are committed, through time and money, to working on this problem. There are valuable opportunities for improvement in the areas of hatchery management, harvest policy, predator control and habitat restoration that should be acted on today. Fish Protection Dave PiperPresident and CEOPacific Northwest Generating Cooperative While continuing research activities for helping adult fish return upriver to spawn, most of the efforts over the last few years have concentrated on improving the passage of juvenile fish. Juvenile fish can migrate past the dams in different ways: through the turbines, through specially constructed bypass systems or over the dams. Passage of the fish through the bypass system, or over the dam, has a lower mortality rate than passing through the turbines. Unlike the other dams, the John Day dam would not be modified under the partial dam removal scenario. However, its operation would be changed. One of the proposals is to lower the reservoir behind the dam by 40 feet from its current height. Click here to enlarge image Linkedin RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Upriver, in the reservoir areas, loss of employment and the increased financial pressure on family farms would occur. With less river traffic, family farms would be faced with additional transportation, storage and handling costs for their products. On the positive side, the Corp of Engineers believes that tourism could increase upriver from the reservoirs due to the free flowing river. Previous articlePE Volume 104 Issue 6Next articlePE Volume 104 Issue 7 chloecox Lower Granite dam, Snake River, Idaho. Photograph courtesy of Harza Engineering, Chicago, Illinois Evidence from the 1970s did show a significant mortality rate of the salmon from the dams. However, there is no empirical evidence to prove whether the mortality rate of salmon migrating up and down the Columbia dam is higher now than before the dam was constructed, says James L. Buchal, author of “The Great Salmon Hoax.” In fact, there is evidence that the total mortality rate may be lower now than before the dams were constructed, Buchal reports. By chloecox – All eight dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers were designed with adult fish ladders. These consist of a series of steps and pools that allow the returning adult fish to climb over the dams. To steer the adult fish to the ladders, the flow at the downstream ladder entrances simulate conditions found at the base of natural waterfalls. Lose-Lose Logic Editor’s Note: a letter from Dave Piper, President and CEO of Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, shares one entity’s concerns with the dam breaching proposal. CoalGasRenewables A group called the Columbia and Snake River Campaign, which supports partial removal of the dams, says this would allow the river to return to a more natural flow. By partially removing the dams, the group believes there is a 98 percent chance of restoring healthy Snake River salmon runs. Bypass systems have been installed in seven of the eight dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Dalles dam is scheduled to have a bypass system installed in the near future. Fish currently bypass the Dalles dam through ice and trash sluiceways. Submerged screens, positioned in front of the turbines, guide the juvenile fish away from the turbines to orifices and into channels that run the length of the dam. After leaving the channels, the fish are routed back into the river. Four of the dams have fish transport facilities that allow the fish to be routed into holding areas. From the loading areas, the fish are loaded onto specially equipped barges, or trucks, for transport downriver. No posts to display Today, besides flood control, the dams also supply low cost hydroelectric power, water for irrigation, navigation, and recreational areas for boaters and fishermen, and water for municipal and industrial use. Dam removal advocates would have you think it’s easy to rebuild fish runs-take out a few dams andellipsevoila! It’s not that simple. Twenty-six fish runs are listed under the Endangered Species Act for Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Only four of these pass through the Snake River projects, which underscores the fact that there is more going on here than just hydroelectric impacts. Facebook Venture Global LNG adds Zachry to EPC team for Gulf export terminal construction TAGSPE Volume 104 Issue 6PGEUSACE We can work together towards comprehensive solutions that recover fish while maintaining the benefits of this remarkable river system. To do so, our region must move beyond divisiveness by resisting the allure of an empty lose-lose promise. The mainstream Columbia and Snake River dams, together with the Grand Coulee dam, are the backbone of the Federal Columbia River Power System. The Bonneville Power Administration sells the low cost electricity produced by the dams. Facebook The Snake River Debate Continues Bonneville, 1938 McNary, 1953 The Dalles, 1957 Ice Harbor, 1961 Lower Monumental, 1969 John Day, 1969 Little Goose, 1970 Lower Granite, 1975 Linkedin The forest products industry, upriver of the dams, could also face economic problems from reduced river traffic. By reducing the reservoir levels, the navigation locks, which currently allow ocean-going ships to go up river as far as Lewiston, Idaho, would become unusable. Vietnam: scaling back coal-fired plans toward gas, renewables Destroying four hydroelectric facilities on the Snake River in the name of fish recovery is a lose-lose proposition. The Northwest region would lose because this idea will not recover fish runs. Its citizens would lose by suffering devastating economic impacts. Interest groups 3,000 miles away, however, have nothing to lose by calling for radical proposals that thrive on fear, and feed off incomplete “science” and cost/benefit rhetoric that is far removed from reality. Industries that utilize the vital benefits of this remarkable river system have an immense incentive to see real recovery of fish runs. We take offense to misleading editorial statements witnessed lately that are not supported by science, economics, or experience. They brush aside real threats to our Northwest economy while glossing over uncertain benefits for fish. Buchal further states that the height of the dams is low enough to allow shipping and fish to pass easily over or around the mainstream dams. When constructed, all of the mainstream dams were built with fish passage facilities.