Tag Archives: DAM REMOVAL

U.S. House Vote Against Spill ‘A Hard Pill For Businesses To Swallow’: NSIA

“Unfathomable.” That’s what the head of a regional pro-fishing group is calling yesterday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives that in part blocks spill through the Columbia Basin to help young salmon.

All of Oregon’s and Washington’s Congressmen representing the immense watershed voted for HR 3144, which passed 225-189 and would put off a federal judge’s spill order till 2022.

It also leaves it up to lawmakers whether to remove the lower four Snake River dams.

WATER SURGES THROUGH BONNEVILLE DAM IN THIS JUNE 2014 CORPS OF ENGINEERS PHOTO. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

But Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association in Portland says blocking spill will “accelerate salmon’s demise, affecting every single species that has to travel down this industrial river.”

Just three weeks ago she’d heralded U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon’s ruling that because the Columbia’s numerous Endangered Species Act-listed stocks “remain in a ‘precarious’ state,” and that with decades worth of studies showing “spill volumes higher than those proposed in the 2014 BiOp will lead to higher survival rates” for young Chinook, coho, steelhead, this year’s program would go ahead starting April 2.

The bill must still pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump, but Hamilton said the House’s action was a direct shot at those benefits.

She called it a “hard pill for businesses to swallow, on the heels of the 2015 drought, the 2016 blob, a bad ocean, and the occasional flood.”

“Climate change, with the frequent, intense environmental changes it brings is hammering the fish and our industry. It is unfathomable that Congress would choose to do less at the exact moment in history when hydropower is needed less than ever. Particularly during the spring when there are over 200 major dams cranking out energy. There’s just no excuse,” Hamilton says.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican who consponsored the legislation, billed it as a way to “protect” the Columbia hydropower system’s dams.

She said the facilities and fish could coexist.

“When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, our dams provide critical baseload energy to power homes and businesses all across Eastern Washington and the Pacific Northwest,” McMorris Rodgers said in a press release. “Not only that, they provide transportation and irrigation benefits for our farmers, flood control for our communities, and recreational opportunities that fuel our economy. This isn’t about the merits of protecting salmon, we all agree on that. This is about providing certainty and letting experts and scientists in the region, who know the river best, work collaboratively to meet that goal. I’m proud to usher this legislation through the House.”

Joining her in voting for the bill were fellow Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert, all Republicans, Oregon’s Kurt Schrader (D) and Greg Walden (R), and Idaho’s Mike Simpson (R). The Gem State’s Raul Labrador (R) did not cast a vote as he was reportedly campaigning for governor.

Hamilton says she watched a hearing on the bill and came away “appalled” at what she’d heard bandied about from the other side of the issue.

She adds that walking away from even looking at removing Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite Dams “could mean extinction for many Snake River stocks in the future.”

According to the Idaho Statesman, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate due to opposition from Washington Senator Patty Murray (D).

“There is an ongoing legal process intended to account for all uses of our critical river system and a court-mandated comprehensive review that everyone can participate in, so I oppose this legislation that would cut off and politicize what should be a robust and transparent process,” Murray said in a statement.

 

Editor’s note: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s first name was misspelled in the initial version of this story. Our apologies.

Decade After Dam Destroyed, Sandy’s Salmon, Steelhead ‘Rebounding’ – ODFW

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Ten years ago a new era of salmon and steelhead recovery quite literally started out with a bang when Marmot Dam was removed from the Sandy River.

Marmot Dam used to block the Sandy River at this bend. Removal of the dam, completed last year, restored the free-flowing nature of the river upstream to its headwaters near the glaciers on Mount Hood. (ODFW)

More than a ton of high-grade explosives were detonated, taking off the face of the 47-foot high concrete dam.

At the time, it was the largest dam breach ever attempted. Portland General Electric, owner of the dam, figured it would be more cost-effective to remove the structure than upgrade it to meet new federal relicensing standards.

Scenes from ODFW’s 2008 “salmon rodeo” on the Sandy: Fish biologists Dannette Faucera and Todd Alsbury point out Chinook redds to their crew while surveying the Salmon River.

In July 2007, in a highly publicized event, PGE blew the concrete face off its dam on the Sandy River. For the next three months, large backhoes with pneumatic hammers pulverized, drilled, pulled apart and hauled off the remaining pieces of the dam. On Oct. 19, a rainstorm swept away the backfill that had accumulated behind the dam, making the Sandy totally free-flowing again, from its headwaters on Mt. Hood to its confluence with the Columbia River in Troutdale 56 miles away.

Biologists, conservationists, anglers, and others hailed the removal of Marmot Dam as a victory for imperiled native runs of Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead. The hope was that fish would benefit from better flows, better water quality and unrestricted access to prime spawning grounds in the uppermost reaches of the river.

DFW staff members unfurl a tangle net before drifting it through a deep hole in the Sandy River. A swimmer, wearing a dry suit, took one end of the net to the other side of the river and swam down and back across the stream in an arc, creating an action in the net that some compared to closing a purse. (ODFW)

So has 10 years of a free-flowing Sandy River been good for fish?

The answer is an unqualified ‘yes’, according to Todd Alsbury, ODFW district fish biologist for the Sandy, and one of the partners in the removal of Marmot Dam.

Fish biologists Todd Alsbury (right), Ben Walczak (center), and Danette Faucera (left), wearing wet and dry suits, wade the icy Salmon River, a tributary of the Sandy, in an attempt to push salmon downstream where they can be collected in a seine net. (ODFW)

Now, for the past three years, when other runs of salmon and steelhead around the region have been down, the Sandy has been seeing increasingly strong returns; in some cases, double what they were a decade ago before Marmot Dam was removed.

“While not solely due to dam removal, returns of wild spring Chinook, winter steelhead, and coho have increased significantly as compared to their abundance before the dam was removed,” said Alsbury, who noted that in the 10 years since Marmot Dam was removed ODFW has observed the largest returns for all three species in the 40 years.

ODFW staff members work together to pull in a net full of fish. Through trial and error they developed a coordinated approach that was very effective at landing Chinook. (ODFW)

For example, the number of wild spring Chinook increased from an average of 809 before dam removal to 2,086 afterwards. Similarly, coho increased from 784 returning fish before dam removal to 1,959 afterward, and wild winter steelhead increased from 898 to 2,757.

To really gauge how successful removal has been, though, it helps to look at how the fish were doing prior to removal of the dam.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery technicians Rob Dietrichs (right) and Dave VanAmburgh (center) remove a chinook salmon from a tangle net while Dannette Faucera, assistant district fish biologist, prepares to scoop the fish up for transport aboard an ATV, then a tank truck to an ODFW hatchery in Clackamas. (ODFW)

Wild spring Chinook were nearly extirpated in the 1950s and ’60s by dam operations, habitat losses, and other human impacts. During this period, fishery managers tried to rebuild the population with hatchery Chinook, which were intercepted in a trap at Marmot Dam and trucked to Sandy Fish Hatchery, where the next generation of fish was spawned and reared.

However, fisheries management changed dramatically in 1998 when the fish were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This triggered discussions about ways to recover the fish, including by taking out Marmot Dam and reducing releases of hatchery fish so there would be fewer of them to compete with the ESA-listed wild fish. These discussions also led to one of the first integrated brood programs whereby wild spring Chinook were reared at the hatchery, and later cross-bred with hatchery Chinook to create a fish closely resembling the native fish, instead of looking outside the basin for replacement stock with different genetics.

Members of ODFW fish staff put a chinook salmon into an aluminum box filled with water from the Sandy River. The boxes were strapped to ATVs, which carried the fish about three-fourths of a mile through the woods to a pickups equipped with tanks designed to keep them in good shape during the 20-mile ride to the hatchery. (ODFW)

When Marmot Dam was removed, ODFW biologists lost a fish trap that gave them the ability to catch and separate wild fish. The fish needed to be separated so the wild ones could go on upstream to spawn while the hatchery fish were captured and taken to the hatchery to spawn. For the first two years after dam removal, ODFW staff netted brood stock out of the river using large seine nets pulled by swimmers in full wetsuits. Later on, biologists installed weirs, or portable traps, in the river for this purpose.

To continue providing a recreational fishery, Alsbury and his staff developed an acclimation site to rear and release juvenile fish at a location that is suitable for returning adult fish. They now collect adult fish using temporary weirs near the release location to capture returning adults. Afterwards, the weir can be removed from the river.

“Our goal is to first protect native runs of native salmon and steelhead while at the same time providing a robust recreational fishery,” said Alsbury. “Thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of many dedicated individuals and a lot of collaboration we are starting to see some impressive results.”

“Habitat is the key,” Alsbury added, noting that the Sandy is one of the few rivers where fish habitat is now being added faster than it is being degraded or lost, and that salmon are now showing up to spawn in habitat that didn’t exist before.