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Water Still Must be Spilled to Help Fish

by Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
The Seattle Times, April 27, 2001

SPOKANE - Despite the drought and power shortage, a limited amount of water still must be spilled from John Day, The Dalles and Bonneville dams on the Columbia River to help migrating fish, the Northwest Power Planning Council decided yesterday.

The four-state planning agency recommended that water spills from other Columbia and Snake river dams be eliminated this summer to leave more water for hydropower generation.

The council, composed of representatives from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, said reduced spills from the dams, plus conservation measures and emergency generation of hydropower that would lower reservoirs more than normal, should provide benefits to migrating fish while ensuring a reasonably reliable power supply this summer.

"Even with these actions, there remains about a 20 percent chance of power-supply problems this winter as a result of the drought," the council said.

In a normal year, there is enough spring snowmelt to allow water to be spilled through all the dams to help salmon and steelhead migrate to the sea while keeping enough in storage to meet summer power needs. That is not the case this year, when the mountain snowpack that feeds the Columbia and Snake is around 50 percent of normal.

At the same time, the California energy shortage is placing severe demands on the electrical supply and dramatically raising the wholesale price of power.

The National Marine Fisheries Service last year issued an opinion calling for spilling water over the dams in spring and summer to help threatened and endangered fish species.

The planning council said reducing the amount of water spilled from the dams this spring would:

The council also decided to continue the program of barging juvenile salmon and steelhead around the dams this spring and summer. The expensive program, in place for years, has been attacked as unnatural and ineffective in restoring fish runs.

The eight council representatives are appointed by the governors of the four Northwest states. The council is charged with setting policy that balances electricity production with the needs of fish and wildlife.

Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
Water Still Must be Spilled to Help Fish
The Seattle Times, April 27, 2001

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