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Commentaries and editorials

Truth About River Water
Temperature is Inconvenient

by Gene Spangrude
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, October 28, 2018

Graphic: Ninety-nine percent of Idaho's adult Sockeye perished due to high river temperatures in 2015. A recent federal court ruling has renewed interest in Columbia Basin water temperatures; especially those that exceed the desired target of 68 degrees.

Is achieving this target realistic or physically possible "naturally" when the regional air temperatures are in the range of 90 and 100 degrees or greater?

The year 2015 is commonly mentioned as being a "toughie year" for the salmon populations.

But it was also a "toughie year" for basic water temperature data collection as well.

Two United States Geological Survey water temperature collection sites, one on the Snake River at Weiser, Idaho, and one at Nyssa, Ore., both had their water temperature data collection terminated later that year (2015) due to an apparently sudden "loss of funding."

Interesting that the collection of basic data for this vitally important water quality parameter can no longer be afforded. The parameter is so important that it can be the basis of ongoing lawsuits.

The Nyssa and Weiser gauges both give insights into the Snake River's "inflowing conditions" to the three Hells Canyon projects and ultimately these same waters enter the four Lower Snake River projects as well.

In 2015, the water temperatures at both the Nyssa and Weiser gauges exceeded 80 degrees for a brief period of time; and exceeded the desired 68 degrees target for weeks/months.

Hopefully the water temperature data collection at either the Snake River's Nyssa or Weiser gauges can soon be afforded again. But I'm betting that their data readily illustrates an "inconvenient truth" that is hard to face and therefore fund.

Even in 1875, over 140 years ago, water temperatures exceeding 68 degrees were being recorded on the Lower Columbia River downstream of Portland; but did not seem to be a cause of concern at that time. These water temperatures were achieved long before the construction of the Lower Columbia, Lower Snake and Hells Canyon projects.

Related Pages:
Fish Declines Preceded Dams by Gene Spangrude, Lewiston Tribune, 12/3/18
Yes, Let's Look at 'Facts' on Dams by Gene Spangrude, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, 8/13/17

Gene Spangrude, Walla Walla, Washington
Truth About River Water Temperature is Inconvenient
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, October 28, 2018

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