Migrating Salmon Get Boost from Snakeby Associated Press
Spokesman Review, June 23, 2000
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Federal water managers are increasing Snake River flows to aid migration of endangered salmon farther downstream, and they hope the water will also dissolve algae mats in the Middle Snake River.
The Bureau of Reclamation began releasing the water Thursday, hoping to boost the flow to more than 1,500 cubic feet per second by week's end.
Officials say this looks to be one of the driest years on record, and if it is, there may not be much water left to help salmon migrate to the ocean, especially because the fish are forced to compete with irrigators' needs.
Twin Falls-area authorities wanted salmon water releases to start sooner than Thursday, but the federal government did not want the water from the upper Snake to reach Lower Granite Dam until July 1, said Kim Fodrea, hydraulic engineer with the bureau's Portland office.
Beginning the flow now and increasing it to 1,500 cfs would get the water to Lower Granite just in time for salmon on their way to the ocean.
And while irrigation flows look cleaner this year, Mike McMasters of the Division of Environmental Quality said plenty of nutrients and sediments -- which create algae mats -- remain in the riverbed. The dense plumes of vegetation are back, despite having dissipated since the early 1990s.
The mats in the past covered parts of the Middle Snake, and their presence sparked efforts to reduce the amount of pollutants dumped into the river.
Officials say low water, high temperatures and longer days also help form the algae. McMasters said it will take solid flows of water to help wash the mats away.
Memo: But that may not be easy since this year's below average snowpack means water managers limited flows from reservoirs on the upper Snake, keeping the river for the past several weeks at the minimum level of just above the 260 cfs. That is the flow required by Idaho Power Co.'s federal power license for the Milner Dam power plant.
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