After proposing numerous measures aimed at cooling Lower Granite Dam tailwater temperature to aid salmon and steelhead passage, hydro and fisheries managers agreed this week to a measure that would actually heat the tailwater by as much as 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit for the next few weeks.
The state of Oregon, as well as nearly a dozen conservation and fishing groups, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland a request for a preliminary injunction that, if granted, would significantly increase spill next year at lower Columbia and Snake river dams and lower the operating pools behind the dams. The measures are intended to aid juvenile and adult salmon and steelhead migrating in the river.
U.S. District Court Judge Marco Hernandez Wednesday outlined in a draft order Wednesday actions that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must take to protect threatened wild spring chinook and winter steelhead at its Willamette Valley dams. The case has been in the courts for three years.
While agreeing to at least investigate most of a suite of water saving and temperature improvement modifications at lower Snake River dams proposed by Oregon last week, at this week’s meeting of the interagency Technical Management Team the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said one thing it can’t do because of safety concerns is to lower the pool level at Lower Granite Dam.
At the end of February, much of the Columbia River basin showed near to above normal water supply forecasts. But with dry weather taking hold in March, and staying there, the picture now is quite dire, with some areas facing the driest April-September water volume on record.
The Columbia Basin Collaborative this week more clearly defined who in the region is invited to participate in a process aimed at improving salmon and steelhead recovery in the Columbia River basin.
Oregon today proposed a suite of six modifications aimed at keeping lower Snake River water at Lower Granite dam cool for sockeye salmon, while also extending the availability of cold flow augmentation water from Idaho’s Dworshak Dam out through the end of August.
Over 450 endangered sockeye salmon have entered the Snake River at Ice Harbor Dam and will either swim upstream past Lower Granite Dam and eventually find the Sawtooth Basin where they will spawn naturally, be trapped by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lower Granite and hauled to the Eagle Hatchery, home to Idaho’s captive rearing program, or they could perish in the warming waters of the lower Snake River.
Last week, U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced Senate Bill 2306, the Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectric and River Restoration Act of 2021, that would create new federal tax incentives to encourage safety, environmental, and grid resiliency upgrades for hydropower dams.