the film
Economic and dam related articles

Salmon Face Dry Summer

by Brian Petersof
Lewiston Tribune, June 30, 2001

BPA won't spill water over dams for fall chinook

One of the consequences of keeping the Bonneville Power Administration's October rate increase down is there will be no help for migrating salmon this summer along the Snake and Columbia rivers.

The BPA announced Friday there will be no summer spill to help migrating salmon around the dams along the Snake and Columbia.

"We're in the position of the relatively good news, with the rate increase being this low, of trying to point out to people that one of the reasons it is this low is that Bonneville has made a conscious decision to increase salmon mortality this year," said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon in Boise.

Spill is when water is allowed to go over the dam instead of through the dam's turbines, where electricity is generated.

"Spill is the safest way to get young migrating salmon across the structure," Ford said.

"It's safer than salmon going through the turbines, and it's safer than the salmon being siphoned out of the river and trucked or barged down stream."

The Snake River fall chinook is the only endangered salmon species that migrates during the summer.

Federal regulations already allow a mortality rate of up to 88 percent for juvenile Snake River fall chinook, Ford said.

Without any dam spill, that number will likely jump another 11 to 17 percent, he said.

BPA has invoked an emergency provision that allows them to override its obligations to the Endangered Species Act.

This is being done because of the near-record low runoff for the Columbia River that is projected for July by the National Weather Service.

In addition, BPA's one nuclear plant has been down for maintenance longer than scheduled.

"Summer spill would reduce power system reliability to an unacceptably low level," said Steve Wright, acting administrator for BPA in Portland in a written statement issued by the agency.

"With the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant still down for maintenance and the July early-bird forecast down to a near-record low level, we simply cannot take that risk."

(bluefish interjects: Five days later BPA's "Yakima Nuclear Plant Back on Line" 7/4/01)

Storing the extra water behind the Snake and Columbia river dams is designed to reduce the risk of power deficits next winter.

Related Page:
Yakima Nuclear Plant Back on Line
Council asks BPA to Make Power Top Priority

Brian Petersof
Salmon Face Dry Summer
Lewiston Tribune, June 30, 2001

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation