Salmon Chat - Affected Partieswith Bluefish and SaveOurDams
Environmental News Network, December 22, 1999
<RedFish BlueFish> Tom, it has been a pleasure conversing with you on this forum and others. Thanks ENN for sponsoring this chat.
<ENN Administrator>That is the glory of the internet.
<Tom Flint> Redfish, I agree, and appreciate the opportunity.
<RedFish BlueFish> So I guess to get started: Who will be impacted if the four Lower Snake River dams are mothballed?
<RedFish BlueFish> 13 irrigators. People that use the waterway to barge products. Electric Rate Payers.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. Well, agriculture, forestry, tourism, recreation, wildlife habitat, a multitude of other species.
<RedFish BlueFish> I am getting over a bit of a cold so my mind may be a bit slow today.
<ENN Administrator> Tom: there are pluses and minuses on that list, no?
<RedFish BlueFish> Tom, Agriculture will be affected by those that ship via the Lower Snake waterway, and by the 13 agribusinesses that irrigate by pumping water from the Ice Harbor Reservoir. Have I missed anything?
<Tom Flint> Redfish, Let us consider that 37,000, acres of irrigated farm land directly, 450,000 acres indirectly in Central Idaho. The Idaho impact has not be considered in any of the studies.
<RedFish BlueFish> 450,000 acres in Central Idaho? Please continue.
<Tom Flint> Redfish , because of the loss of water storage and flow augmentation that has been proposed. That is a major, major impact.
<RedFish BlueFish> Forestry: my guess is that forestry would benefit if salmon return in larger numbers. Some forestry products that are exported will no longer be able to use the Lower Snake Waterway. Am I missing anything here?
<RedFish BlueFish> True the flow augmentation is a Major Major concern.
<ENN Administrator> Tom: I am not sure I understood your last comment... could you clarify your concerns with flow augmentation and storage?
<Tom Flint> Redfish, You must realize that the trickle down impacts of all these irrigation projects provide home and habitat for a multitude of other wildlife that would not be there otherwise.
<ENN Administrator> You too Redfish.
<RedFish BlueFish> It has been suggested that releasing more water from upstream reservoirs will aid salmon migration.
<Tom Flint> ENN , The flow augmentation would require release of 1 million acre feet of water to use for fish migration. However there is not data to support increased flow augmentation.
<RedFish BlueFish> This is referred to as Flow Augmentation. And as Tom points out, there is little evidence that flow augmentation does much good.
<ENN Administrator> You know, I have a great deal of decision making power over the content of the Salmon page on ENN. Would you be interested in writing position papers to augment the news stories that we have there now?
<ENN Administrator> Where does the information for flow augmentation come from?
<RedFish BlueFish> Idaho Water Resource put out a paper that shows the increase of water velocity is like a tenth of a percent or something (it is listed on www.bluefish.org somewhere, sorry about my lack of detail today)
<RedFish BlueFish> The temperature effects were not considered however.
<ENN Administrator> tenth of a percent increase in survival?
<RedFish BlueFish> I remember reading that the data suggests that flow might help for Spring/Summer Chinook or perhaps it was the Fall Chinook but the data is inconclusive.
<RedFish BlueFish> Some even suggests that the flow augmentation may hurt some adults that are returning at this same time.
<RedFish BlueFish> Tenth of Percent in water velocity. From like 3 miles per hour to 3.1 miles per hour in the reservoir. I don't remember exactly. The point Idaho Water Resource was making is that taking a huge amount of water from Idaho Irrigators does not really provide much benefit for fish.
<Tom Flint> Red fish. The flow augmentation is not supported by by any of the data. The U.S. Army Corps will show you that it actually hurts salmon.
<RedFish BlueFish> Currently Southern Idaho Irrigators lose around 427,000 acre feet of water. Talk is for them to sacrifice another 1 to 3 million acre feet. This is enough to dry up around something like 40
<RedFish BlueFish> Enough to dry up around something like 40 percent of Idaho's irrigated farmland according to someone from Bureau of Reclamations.
<ENN Administrator> I see. This seems like a significant amount How much difference does temperature make?
<RedFish BlueFish> Sorry if my facts aren't precise. I am doing this all from memory today.
<Tom Flint> Red Fish. Yes, Salmon need water. However they need only the right amount at the right time. The flood theory that this represents, is in my opinion incorrect. They need a controlled migration with a controlled amount of water which dams and reservoirs can do.
<RedFish BlueFish> Temperature has been a major concern as the reservoirs tend to get warm in the summer heat and salmon are fatally threatened in temperatures above the low 70's
<ENN Administrator> Tom: do you think there is a way to time this flow augmentation to make both parties happy? Same question to you Redfish.
<Tom Flint> ENN. The information for the Corps will tell you that the water now is cooler now then when dams were placed on the snake.
<ENN Administrator> Tom: Why is that? Does the Corps say?
<RedFish BlueFish> As I understand it, their are so many different runs of salmon, it would be difficult to benefit one run without negatively impacting another run. That is to say that the downstream migration of some is during the upstream migration of others.
<RedFish BlueFish> I think that is because of water coming from Dworshak. i.e. flow augmentation.
<Tom Flint> ENN. I my opinion you need to have sufficient water for fish migration. In a natural river the people that were here before dams were on the river will tell you that in low water years there would not be enough water for stream flow, stranding 100's of thousand of salmon which died
<RedFish BlueFish> It seems to many that if the Lower Snake Dams were removed that no more flow augmentation would be necessary. This is certainly my hope as well as Idaho irrigators.
<ENN Administrator> Tom: do you think the salmon can be saved in ways that would not require the destruction of the dams?
<Tom Flint> Redfish, What good is a undammed river with no water. A reservoir is a water storage bank to allow for this.
<Tom Flint> ENN. Most definitely.
<ENN Administrator> Tom: How?
<RedFish BlueFish> I was not around then but it seems that an undammed river was very healthy for salmon runs for the past 12,000 years or so.
<Tom Flint> ENN. Lets look at some of the most obvious. Predators, overharvesting, a protected ocean habitat, elimination of nets. etc
<RedFish BlueFish> I agree Tom, that the 13 agribusinesses should continue to receive water from the Snake for Irrigation. I do not think that it is anyone'
<RedFish BlueFish> I do not think that is in any one's interest to negatively impact anyone that is benefiting from the current system.
<RedFish BlueFish> I guess the thing here Tom, is that keeping the dams would impact many other industries that would be much more difficult to mitigate the effects of.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. The salmon decline parallels the commercial fishing, The first thing that happens is that to offset commercial fishing is the introduction of hatcheries. This started in the late 1880 before any dams.
<RedFish BlueFish> Governor Knowles of Alaska will fight tooth and nail to protect his state's important fishing industry.
<RedFish BlueFish> Protection of habitat would mean increased restrictions on logging.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. A little conflict of interest with Alaska.
<RedFish BlueFish> Up near the headwaters of the Salmon River, whitewater outfitters are not allowed to run some stretches of river during spawning season. Is this the source of the problem? I think not.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. The logging industry is changing and doing a lot. But you should not expect dams to be 100 percent of the problem. They are a very very small part of the over all problem.
<RedFish BlueFish> Impacts on industry should be minimized or completely taken care of. In this case, removing the dams provides the solution. The few that could be affected are taken care of so as to see no effect.
<RedFish BlueFish> The science that I have read seems to say that the four Lower Snake River dams are the problem. I am not into breaching dams just for the fun of it. It seems that our attention should be focused on the problem and not on the fringes.
<RedFish BlueFish> So who would be impacted: Shippers, irrigators, and rate payers. Am I missing anyone?
<Tom Flint> Redfish. I do not agree. They have been unjustifiable targeted. They are big, and you can see them 100 percent of the time, and we need to be looking at everything, especially the things we do not see.
<RedFish BlueFish> Shippers could still ship using the existing rail lines that parallel the Lower Snake River. So as to cause no impact, rail rates could be guaranteed to be IDENTICAL to current barge rates.
<RedFish BlueFish> Current costs of barging are around $14 per ton from Lewiston to Tri-Cities.
<RedFish BlueFish> The Barge Operators pay only around $1.40 per ton the rest is paid for by electric ratepayers.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. There is a environmental issue here. The barging, the farming, the hydropower is all annually renewable resources. Nothing that we can substitute for is renewable. It is all from a finite resource that will eventually run out.
<RedFish BlueFish> The rail lines that parallel the river charge about $1.40 per ton, perhaps a few cents more per ton than the subsidized barge system.
<RedFish BlueFish> Basically shifting the barge subsidy to a much smaller subsidy will save rate payer money and make the economic effects invisible to those that ship the Lower Snake corridor.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. The barging is no different that the public highway system, everyone benefits one way or another. And you share the benefits where you want to recognize it or not.
<RedFish BlueFish> Hydropower is a renewable resource.
<RedFish BlueFish> Conservation is a cost effective replacement.
<RedFish BlueFish> I just do not see why barging is so important when a rail line already exists and operates that can provide the same service at the same price without necessity of four Lower Snake dams.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. Yes through the hydrologic cycle, and as a benefit to everyone by providing the reservoir to pump and irrigate from which through plant transpiration cleans carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide out of the air as well as other pollution.
<ENN Administrator> We have heard your conservation argument before - and I agree - it is a great solution. However, I don't think that we can get to this list of solutions yet...
<ENN Administrator> We haven't finalized our list of parties.
<RedFish BlueFish> That brings us to Irrigation. I have been considering this deeply of late. The irrigation of 37,000 acres near Tri-Cities should and can continue.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. I thought we had been there before. Rail is not there, would take 100 years to build up to a suitable replacement. at tremendous expense and at increase air pollution.
<RedFish BlueFish> Why is rail not there? What are you getting at?
<Tom Flint> Redfish I am glad too see you see the importance of the 37000 acres of farmland.
<RedFish BlueFish> 37,000 acres is about equivalent to a strip of land 2 miles wide by 7 miles across. This receives a little under of 3 feet deep of water from pumping from the lowest of the 4 Lower Snake Reservoirs (Ice Harbor)
<Tom Flint> Redfish the existing system cannot handle the increased traffic. There are not enough hopper cars, or engines. It takes 20 years just to get into the work plan for railroad.
<RedFish BlueFish> Need for hoppers is a concern. The Washington State Transportation has purchased something like 29 "Grain Train" hoppers for the exclusive purpose of hauling grain to Portland. An extension of this sort of system could provide availability of capacity.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. A portion of this should be efficiencies and the utilization of resources. We should be protecting the annually renewable resources for our children and generations to come.
<RedFish BlueFish> Studying some topographic maps this week, it seems that a canal or pipe could be built along the current shoreline of the Ice Harbor Reservoir.
<RedFish BlueFish> The reservoir holds water at about 500 feet above sea level.
<RedFish BlueFish> A 25 mile canal along "river right", perhaps using the existing rail-line as an embankment could deliver water to a place called Dayton Lake.
<Tom Flint> Redfish, I have not seen that, so really cannot comment. It is the lift that we need to keep in consideration. The other thing is that in a undammed river in a low water year there will be no water for fish or farmers.
<RedFish BlueFish> I have not floated this section of river so I am unsure of it's feasibility but it seems to be worthy of consideration.
<Tom Flint> Redfish I really have a concern for salmon in a low water year. You will be killing them by the 100's of thousands.
<RedFish BlueFish> Dayton Lake is just above the current reservoir and it appears that some irrigation farming takes place near here. The 13 irrigators could pump their water from this elevation much as they do now.
<Tom Flint> Redfish Until i see and study the proposal i really can not comment.
<RedFish BlueFish> The ACOE estimates that about 400 cubic feet per second of water is used for about 7 months of the year.
<RedFish BlueFish> It seems that such a canal could be built and all irrigation can continue as usual.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. You really need to consider the impact on salmon of a undammed river in a low water year or years.
<RedFish BlueFish> I know that you live around there Tom so maybe you could take a drive by someday to check it out. I understand that you are unable to comment now but this is just a bit of brainstorming. I agree that irrigation should continue.
<Tom Flint> Redfish I will try and see what i can find.
<RedFish BlueFish> Ratepayers need not see an increase in power rates. Currently the amount of money received from power production at these four dams is roughly equivalent to the amount spent in salmon recovery efforts. (about $250 million/year)
<RedFish BlueFish> Furthermore, it seems that the Transmission Business Line of the BPA should share in the cost of the failed Nuclear Projects.
<RedFish BlueFish> Currently that bad debt obligation is on the burden of BPA power users and not on BPA transmission line users.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. I am am trying to stay focused, and don't want to get into nuclear in this discussion.
<RedFish BlueFish> The logic seems to be that Nuclear Plants were power producers. To me and most accountants, I suppose, Bad Debt is Bad Debt regardless of its cause and should be shared as a burden throughout the company.
<RedFish BlueFish> I agree,. it is hard to go in all the various angles and stay focused.
<RedFish BlueFish> So here we are, if the dams go the effected parties are ratepayers, irrigators and shippers.
<RedFish BlueFish> No economic effect need be felt by anyone.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. This would cost 250, lost power, 450 million lost Idaho Agriculture, 130 million lost Ore WA Agriculture. Increased transportation etc. It would cost close to 1 billion a year in lost commerce and still no one can guarantee that it will work.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. Why don't we focus on things that will work while maintaining our Pacific Northwest economic engine, We can have both, if we just do it right.
<RedFish BlueFish> Come again please, how would Ag. lose? I suppose you mean that flow augmentation would hurt Idaho but I seems that no increase in flow augmentation would be necessary if the 4 Lower Snake dams are mothballed.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. In a low water year, who do you think will get water?? Fish or farmers???
<RedFish BlueFish> Agreed, we can have both: healthy agriculture economy and salmon, this is what Sen Slade Gorton said recently and I concur.
<Tom Flint> Redfish Well i am glad that we agree to agree. We made history today.
<RedFish BlueFish> With over 400 dams in the Columbia basin it is unclear why these four dams are necessary to insure water storage for fish.
<Tom Flint> Redfish Bottom line they are multipurpose projects. Water storage is a benefit, which also recharges the aquifers all over the county, and this include recharging other streams for fish.
<RedFish BlueFish> I think we can make it work. Us getting together and chatting our ideas amongst each other is part of this process and I have enjoyed our discussions tremendously.
<Tom Flint> Redfish. Well hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and have enjoyed sharing ideas with everyone.
<RedFish BlueFish> I have heard that the ACOE is concerned about the water table in the vicinity and that some wells will need to go deeper. I haven't given this a lot of thought just yet. With the Columbia only ten or fifteen miles away it seems that it would provide stability to the water table. I guess I should read up on this.
<ENN Administrator> Well, a bit of common ground! Wonderful... I hope everyone has a good holiday and we can resume these conversations in the new year.
<RedFish BlueFish> Merry Christmas to you Tom. Thanks ENN for this opportunity to throw around our ideas and concern.
<ENN Administrator> I should be wrapping things up here - do you guys think we are at a good stopping point? go ahead and finish your thoughts.
<Tom Flint> Redfish The aquifer recharge goes a lot further than 10 to 15 miles.
<Tom Flint> ENN Thanks for the opportunity, and have a Merry Christmas.
<ENN Administrator> Okay - you guys too. ENN is logging off.
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