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Ecology and salmon related articles

Columbia System Gets Hotter
and Deadly for Salmon and Steelhead

by Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman, July 30, 2013

(Darin Oswald) Fish ladders at the the Lower Granite Dam had water that was too warm for salmon, but turbine manipulation saved the day. Idaho's salmon face many obstacles and dangers as they live their amazing lives starting at 6,500 feet above sea level and almost 900 miles from the Pacific.

They leave the Salmon, Clearwater and Snake rivers, are swept by the current out to the ocean, and then travel thousand of miles through the habitat and ecosystems of many species including us. Beginning in the 1860s we began altering many of those ecosystems to mine, farm, fish, log and manufacture what we needed and wanted.

But despite all of these changes, including a series of dams that block off many spawning grounds and make migration even harder, they survive even though most stocks in the Columbia Basin are threatened or endangered. But since the 1950s the high maximum temperatures in the Columbia River have risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the rise in acidification measured in the ocean and the salmon, like other creatures will face existential threats over the next century. But for some salmon the warming is already killing them.

Oregon officials reported more than 180 wild Chinook salmon died in a remote section of the Middle Fork of the John Day River, a tributary of the Columbia. River temperatures were measurd at 74 degrees far higher than salmon can stand for long.

Since July 22 water temperatures reached 70 degrees or higher 35 times at four federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers passable to salmon. All readings at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River surpassed 70 degrees during this week, and readings at The Dalles Dam surpassed 70 degrees.

Salmon can survive this, research shows, because they can seek out areas of cooler waters to hang out until temperatures drop again. Biologists have found that when temperatures exceeded 68 degrees the salmon and steelhead delay their migration and stay where the water is cooler.

This is becoming a larger part of the steelhead run in particular and the delays appear to be getting longer. The good news for Idaho is the critical spawning and rearing streams are at higher elevations where temperatures are lower.

But getting these fish through an increasingly hot migration corridor is going to be a major challenge for the next century. For the salmon that spawn in the lower elevations, the threat is far worse.

Related Pages:
The Heat Is On For Salmon by Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman, 8/3/13

foreignoregonian says:
This is not even reaistic and is assumptive of the human race sprialling into extinction itself.

brummackkid says:
Old News Rocky but whatever sells newspapers I guess. The reservoirs. . .especially the lower snake complex are a death traps to salmon and steelhead. The country does not possess the will to address the issue. . .call it what you want. . .blame whoever you want, but the reality is the reservoirs behind the dams make salmon recovery pipe dream without constant Federal money growing more and more fake fish. Why not create a floating enclosed fish route (canal if you will). . .power the water cooling system and pumps with WIND that never stop down there. . .instead of continuing to fund no solution barging.

Rocky Barker says:
Sounds like an idea to save dams, not salmon.

gn49 says:
The dams aren't going anywhere Rocky, the government decided water rights that are 100 years old trump the rights of the salmon who have migrated the river for 10,000+ years. The dams aren't going anywhere, irrigation is needed as people need food. Our society will continue to rape and pillage the land consuming every natural resource until it is depleted and we are depleted. Then the cycle will start all over again, but hey we call that freedom right?

John says:
Sounds like an idea to save dams and salmon.

brumbackkid says:
I guess i am too pragmatic. The dams are not going anywhere. . .breaching is simply not the will of the majority for the foreseeable future. why not use our BIG Brains to figure out an in-river solution. We can build giant water parks. . .apply that technology to the sections of the Columbia. Cool the water. . .speed it way up. . .power it with the WIND.

James v. Allen says:
All of the above points are valid. However, the "Real Elephant in the room" is just how many people can the Pacific Northwest support; both directly and indirectly, and still provide the desired quality of life.

TLM says:
Water temperatures are increasing in tributaries above the dams. Letting wilderness fires burn off stream side vegetation is the major culprit in our area. Planting trees along rivers and streams doesn't seem to be part of the plan.

gn49 says:
If we were really interested in saving the salmon, we would pump the warm water off the top of the reservoirs for irrigation and leave the cold water in the system for the fish. Instead we divert all the cold water off the bottom of the reservoirs and leave the residual bath tub for the fish to die. But hey, that would cost money and require some critical thinking. Our government is only good at one of those. . .

Rocky Barker
Columbia System Gets Hotter and Deadly for Salmon and Steelhead
Idaho Statesman, July 30, 2013

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