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Dams and Salmon

by David Sparks
Sportsman Spotlight, March 23, 2023

US Fish and Wildlife biologist Ted Koch talks about the pros and cons
surrounding the whole issue of dams and their impact on salmon migration.

Graphic: Wild Chinook runs to the Lower Snake River as counted at the highest dam in place at the time. (1961-2021) Ted Koch: There's actually eight dams in the way. There's four in the lower Columbia, four in the lower Snake.

The lower Snake dams have a much greater impact because they impound relatively more of the flow of the Snake River, whereas in the Columbia you still have some flow behind those lower dams.

And so, for example, fish in the Yakima River, which is just across the Columbia from the mouth of the snake. Yakima River fish return at a rate that's ten times greater than Snake River salmon return, even though the bedroom habitat where they lay their eggs and the babies grow in the river is a lot better in the salmon basin and in Yakima. And it's because of the dams.

The last consideration, of course, is what are the dams authorized for? They're authorized for two things transportation and power. They're really not for flood control.

They call them run of the river, but they delay too much for salmon needs. But the thing is, at this point, we have options for providing power and transportation through other means.

Rail and highway for transportation, obviously solar, wind and other for power. And then the dams actually produce power at the time of the year that we need, at least in the Pacific Northwest. So you get the greatest flows in June, while it's moderate temperatures and the longest daylight hours in that month. And so we need the electricity at the least when the dams are most productive for electricity.

So all sorts of things to consider, but there's a lot of personal investment in dams. I talked to people whose grandparents worked on them and it's very personal to think that we no longer need them and take them out. It can be hurtful to folks in that position.

Related Sites:
The key to endangered species recovery? Communication by Carl Segerstrom, High Country News 5/15/19

David Sparks
Dams and Salmon <-- Listen at orginal site.
Sportsman Spotlight, March 23, 2023

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