Pollution discharge limits were set this week by the Environmental Protection Agency on the four U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lower Snake River dams.
After federal agencies ruled in July that PacifiCorp and Cowlitz County Public Utility District must provide fish passage at their Lewis River dams in Washington, the utilities turned to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking for an emergency stay on that ruling, which FERC denied late last week.
So far just 42 sockeye salmon completed the 900-mile swim through eight dams from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho’s Sawtooth Basin, an even lower return of the endangered fish to the basin than in 2015 when warm water in the Columbia and Snake rivers killed 90 percent of the run before they arrived at Ice Harbor Dam.
After more than three years of review and analysis, the Bonneville Power Administration has decided to join the Western Energy Imbalance Market in March 2022, saying the move will increase BPA revenues through sales of surplus power.
Columbia and Snake river waters have warmed 1.5 degrees Centigrade since 1960 and the rivers could warm an additional 1.7 to 2 degrees C by 2100, all due to climate change, with implications for long-term salmon and steelhead survival.
In a quick vote at this week’s interagency Technical Management Team meeting, federal river operating agencies denied a fisheries managers’ request to delay their nighttime flow plan in the Snake River that is due to begin in mid-October. Fisheries managers want to delay the operation a month and a half to December when they say fewer salmon and steelhead are migrating in the river.
The abundance in the Columbia River basin of a fish species rich in nutrients that provides a source of food for numerous riverine birds and animals, as well as Native Americans, has been in decline over the past 20 years, according to a presentation this week at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee meeting.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to add the Columbia River’s Bradford Island to its Superfund list -- the country’s highest priority contaminated sites requiring cleanup. Bradford Island is part of the Bonneville Dam complex operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Specifically citing low steelhead return numbers to the Columbia/Snake rivers, fisheries managers are again asking dam operators to delay zero nighttime generation at Lower Snake federal dams – power peaking, no flow – due to the presence of migrating adult and juvenile salmon and steelhead. They say it’s the wrong time to turn a riverine environment into a lake with no flow.