flexible spill agreement signed in December by federal agencies, states and a
tribe promises additional spring spill to total dissolved gas limits, known as
gas caps, beginning this spring at Columbia and Snake river dams. The
additional spill is thought to aid juvenile salmon passage.
part of the agreement is for states to change their TDG standards. Washington’s
current standards call for a limit of 120 percent TDG in the tailrace of dams
and 115 percent in the next downstream forebay. The state’s Department of
Ecology is considering eliminating the forebay standard and raising the
tailrace standard to 125 percent and it is currently in the process of
completing its environmental impact statement for the changes.
limits are intended to protect young fish from gas bubble trauma in the dams’
tailraces during spill.
has put the draft EIS out for review that it says would allow the additional
spill over eight federal dams in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers.
move could help improve the survival of juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean,
increasing the availability of food for the struggling Southern Resident
orcas,” Ecology says.
is responsible for regulating the levels of dissolved gases in the dam water.
This temporary change for the 2019-2021 spring spill seasons at the dams would
test the potential benefits for fish passage when higher levels of dissolved
gases, mainly oxygen and nitrogen, are allowed. Dam operators could increase
the amount of water they spill over the dams to help fish migrating downstream,
but unlike the additional spill of last spring, dam operators would seek higher
spill levels without reducing power generation.
more juvenile salmon survive the journey to the ocean is one of many steps we want
to take to protect and restore salmon. Our hope is this will also support the
recovery and sustained health of our orcas,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
“This is an important short-term action we can take to help inform our
decisions about what will work over the long-term.”
spring and summer spill has to some extent been a part of Columbia and Snake
river operations for years, more recently the initial request for injunctive
relief for spring spill to gas cap levels was enjoined with an earlier case
argued in U.S. District Court in Oregon. The initial case, heard by Judge
Michael H. Simon, resulted in a May 2016 remand of the federal Columbia River
power system biological opinion for salmon and steelhead listed under the
Endangered Species Act.
spill plea was initiated in January 2017 by plaintiffs in the original case,
the National Wildlife Federation and the State of Oregon, among others. Simon
agreed that more spring spill would benefit ESA-listed fish but delayed the
action until 2018 while federal agencies completed a spill plan for the dams.
of the issues for the Corps during the 2018 spring spill to gas caps was
determining what the forebay TDG level would be if spill in the upstream dam
saturates water to 120 percent TDG. There are too many variables that influence
downstream TDG – barometric pressure, wind and temperature – so it is difficult
to predict the forebay TDG, Dan Turner of the Corps told the Technical
Management Team Dec. 19 at TMT’s end of year review.
spill at the eight dams this year will occur at higher gas cap levels for 16
hours a day and at lower levels called performance standard spill for eight
hours a day, according to the spill agreement. Each of the eight dams has its
own spill levels (details are available in the 2019-2021 Spill Operation
Agreement at https://www.bpa.gov/efw/FishWildlife/SpillOperationAgreement/doc/ECF-2298_Spill-Notice-and-Agreement.pdf).
general, higher spill would occur at times of day when power demand and prices
are at their lowest. Spill levels would drop when more power is needed and when
that power is most profitable – typically morning and evening hours. The
operation would help passage of juvenile salmon when spill levels are high
while keeping power generation losses due to the spill at a minimum.
always, science is our guide and we need to balance the potential benefits to
juvenile salmon without too great of risk to other fish,” said Maia Bellon,
director of Ecology. “We want to be intentional and informed about any actions
that significantly alter this complex ecosystem.”
environmental impact statement provides extensive information on current
available science, research, and data related to total dissolved gas, Ecology
said. Drafts of the environmental impact statement and short-term modification
are available for public comment through Feb. 28 at http://ws.ecology.commentinput.com/?id=c3GbH&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.
addition, Ecology is holding two public hearings:
February 13, 2:30 PM
State School for the Blind, Fries Auditorium (Old Main Building), 2214 East
13th Street, Vancouver.
February 19, 6:00 PM
hearing via webinar at 6 p.m. (register for the webinar at https://watech.webex.com/mw3300/mywebex/default.do?nomenu=true&siteurl=watech&service=6&rnd=0.3190483901768032&main_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwatech.webex.com%2Fec3300%2Feventcenter%2Fevent%2FeventAction.do%3FtheAction%3Ddetail%26%26%26EMK%3D4832534b00000004459abedc80f21d2081b7ae00d514b7535e7dfd07129cb31058caea8af949034c%26siteurl%3Dwatech%26confViewID%3D117206552219263841%26encryptTicket%3DSDJTSwAAAATn-bNp_00HmP4X4b8ERF_Mou5nj6JTKll5Peu3ruPsow2%26).
reviewing the comments, Ecology will release the final EIS and make a decision
on the short-term modification.
information on this proposal is available on Ecology’s blog at https://ecologywa.blogspot.com/2019/01/understanding-environmental-impacts-of_29.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.
addition, Oregon is expected to ask the Oregon Department of Environmental
Quality to raise TDG tailrace limits up to 125 percent.
new flexible spill agreement will be in effect until federal agencies complete
in 2020 a federal Columbia River power system environmental impact statement
and biological opinion for salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered
the interim, the agreement will be tucked into a 2018 BiOp NOAA Fisheries had
planned to complete by the end of this year. That additional work will delay
the BiOp to about March 2019.
CBB, January 11, 2019, “Following Presidential Directive, Feds Shorten
Columbia/Snake Hydrosystem EIS Schedule By One Year,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441998.aspx
CBB, December 21, 2018, “Parties Sign Agreement On Flexible Spill For Fish
Passage At Columbia/Snake Dams,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441945.aspx