Helping Salmon Downstream, Emotional
KMVT, February 26, 2009
In recent years, water managers have been required to release water to help salmon swim downstream to the ocean; but Jay Michaels says the underlying motive may actually be emotional, instead of based on scientifically grounded fact.
Doctor David Welch is the lead author on a study released by the Public Library of Science Biology Journal. Welch examined the Lower Snake and Columbia Rivers, to see how many young fish survived while they were migrating.
Fish Passage Solutions Consultant John McKern said, "He's also comparing that against the Fraser River system, and he's found that the survival per mile traveled in the Fraser, is lower than it is through the eight dam hydropower system, or through the four dams in the Snake and Columbia."
McKern says more fish survive going through the bypasses built into the hydropower system, in contrast to the undammed section of the Columbia, because of all the work done by the corps of engineers since the 1950's. He says Ice Harbor Dam is a prime example of that.
McKern says, "There are screens that screen fish out of the turbine intakes, juvenile fish coming downstream, and they're bypassed around the dam at 100 percent survival. You can't do any better than that."
McKern says the best science available shows that removing the four dams on the lower Snake River would do very little to improve the survival of migrating fish. He says more than 50 years of fish research by the corps of engineers, and more than 25 years of information gathered by the Bonneville Power Administration , adds up to the best available science. But that doesn't seem to matter in controversial lawsuits in favor of breaching dams.
"The people who are suing only have to allege that the best available science isn't being used. And the judge throws out the biological opinion; he's done that twice already."
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