bluefish had 45 days to prepare the following comment
Predator disruption and breaching the lower Snake River Dams were analyzed as part of MO2 and MO3. The Preferred Alternative includes the predator disruption measure at the John Day reservoir. A version of the John Day pool operation was carried into the Preferred Alternative, however, the breaching measure was not included in the Preferred Alternative.
The EIS set forth eight objectives which, in tandem with the Purpose and Need Statement, establish the framework for evaluating the ability of an alternative to satisfy the co-leads numerous legal obligations.
The Preferred Alternative is predicted to benefit juvenile and adult anadromous salmonids (two of the objectives), but not as much as MO3 which includes breaching the four lower Snake River dams. However, the Preferred Alternative also meets most other EIS objectives including those for resident fish, lamprey, hydropower generation, water management, and water supply, while minimizing adverse effects to communities and the economy. MO3, by contrast, has significant regional economic and community effects, and meets fewer of the EIS objectives.
Thus, in the Draft EIS, the co-lead agencies did not recommend MO3 which includes breaching the four lower Snake River dams, because the Preferred Alternative is more likely to satisfy multiple complex and at times conflicting legal requirements for a complex system.
bluefish counter response:
Final EIS Chapter One discusses "Conflicting legal requirements",
Chapter 1 - Federal Dams and Reservoirs: Annual and Short-Term Operation (page 1-37)
Providing flows to aid the downstream migration of anadromous juvenile fish
YES, this is what is desperately needed! Idaho's salmon and steelhead have been listed for protection by the Endangered Species Act for two decades now. The #1 problem is that downstream migration is blocked by 140 miles of slackwater reservoir behind the four Lower Snake River dams. Despite billions of dollars spent in an attempt to protect Idaho's salmon, very little evidence of success can be found. Quite the opposite, federal efforts have been failing as evidenced by the following graphic.
Last year (2019) marked the "first test" of Flex Spill and the devestation on downstream migration was great and obvious (see graph above). Bluefish brought this to the attention of BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer at our face-to-face meeting December 10, 2019. He then and there asked for his assistant Josh Warner to consult their fish managers to see if this drastic decline of juvenile migrants might be related to hatchery problems.
In both of the following meetings with Mainzer and Warner (March 23, May 26, 2020, now by webinar), I learned that nothing came from those "fish manager" discussions. Despite my warnings and reference to the Clearing Up article discussing my concerns, with the spring runoff the bathtub effect of Lower Granite Reservoir was again allowed to be a part of the second year "Flex Spill" experiment.
Maximizing power generation, within the requirements imposed by other objectives.
If this objective were to be met, then the Final EIS would take their Multi-Objective 2 (MO2) as the heart of the CRSO Preferred Alternative. MO2 was expressly designed to "Prioritize hydropopwer production", and "mitigation" -- reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.-- would transport Idaho's salmon around the hydropower system of 450 miles of reservoir slackwater.
Chapter 2 - Multiple Objective Alternative 2 (page 2-49)
Surprisingly, MO2 actually saw an increase in retail electricity rates in several Washington counties. It turns out that even though 380 average megawatts (aMW) would be available to Bonneville "preference customers", some of these customers would -- by contract -- be forced to buy this additional hydropower. Federal hydropower is not their least cost source of power. The additional obligation would tend upward pressure on their retail rates (see map below).
The lesson here is that federal hydropower is, no longer, the least expensive source of electricity in the Pacific Northwest. This is also largely why Remove Snake River Embankments, the core of MO3, brings about a reduction in retail rate pressure across Bonnveille's service territory.
Providing sufficient water levels for navigation, recreation, and fish and wildlife;
Navigation is the "conflicting objective" that is keeping Remove Snake River Embankments from being the core of the Preferred Alternative. Political pressure to keep the LSR dams has, for decades been, dominated by interest groups that benefit from the taxpayer-supported navigation system of the Columbia River System (CRS).
On March 2, 1945, Congress instructed the Secretary of Army to "construct such dams as are necessary to provide slackwater navigation" on the Lower Snake River. This "authorization" came nine weeks after an emergency shutdown of the nation's plutonium production at the secret Hanford Engineering Works. This was all extremely secretive and evidence is scant, but it appears to bluefish that the need for a redundant power line is what brought about the authorization for constructing dams on the Lower Snake River.
"The present salmon run must be sacrificed." -- Warner W Gardner, Asst. Secretary of Interior March 6, 1947
Pulbic Law 14, the River and Harbors Act of 1945 is the "legal requirement" conflicting with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Northwest Power Act, Native American Treaty rights and trust obligations. The question to now consider is "Does authorzing language from seventy-five years ago take precedence over more recent environmental laws and much older treaty obligations?"
Since 1992, more than half of Columbia River salmon and steelhead species have been listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Regional debate continues about the relative importance of the different factors that cumulatively led to this decline, but there is little debate that the construction and operation of the CRS has had a sizable impact on fish. Tremendous effort and billions of dollars have been invested in infrastructure, hatcheries, and other projects to improve passage and habitat for fish in the basin over the last 50 years, particularly since the passage of the Northwest Power Act in the early 1980s.
When legal obligations conflict, it is up to decision makers to decide which takes precedence, and which provides the greatest utility to the common good. It is the sincere hope of bluefish that well informed decision makers will make well informed decsions, so we ask that you please share these pages widely, and with that goal in mind.