Salmon Habitat Threatens Dam Survival

Part of a sustainable and green data center is thinking long term and looking at the social impacts that can effect a data center operation. Seattle Times has an article about a US district judge telling federal agencies their salmon-recovery plans need work.

Salmon-recovery plan needs work, judge says

A judge is telling federal agencies they need to do more to help Columbia Basin salmon survive, or he will find the latest restoration plan in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

By Seattle Times staff and news services

PORTLAND — A judge is telling federal agencies they need to do more to help Columbia Basin salmon survive, or he will find the latest restoration plan in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

A Monday letter from U.S. District Judge James Redden to lawyers for all sides in a long-running court battle says he continues to have "serious reservations" because the standard for success is not strong enough.

Redden also wants a contingency plan that would include funding, congressional approvals and other steps needed to breach the lower Snake Rivers dams in the event other measures fail to restore salmon runs.

The letter sets the stage for a new round of out-of-court negotiations between plaintiffs — environmental groups and others — and the federal government over the program to revive endangered and threatened salmon runs in the Columbia River basin amid the operations of federal hydropower dams.


What is the probability of the federal gov’t breaching a hydroelectric dam to restore the salmon habitat?

Todd True, a plaintiff's attorney with Earthjustice, said he hopes breaching the dams can become an important component of the final plan.

"We hope that it will rise to the top of any objective evaluation," True said.

In years past, Redden has twice rejected federal plans for restoring the Columbia-basin salmon runs protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

And judge is losing his patience.

Redden said "aggressive actions are necessary to save this vital [salmon] resource." He said that the litigants are finally starting to work together, and he is optimistic for the prospects of a new agreement.

He warned that the government has spent the past decade "treading water" and "we cannot afford to waste another decade."

Here are the dams in the snake river area.

Dams of the Columbia Basin & Their Effects on the Native Fishery

Bonneville * The Dalles * John Day & McNary * Priest Rapids & Wanapum * Rock Island, Rocky Reach, Wells & Chief Joseph * Grand Coulee * Hells Canyon, Oxbow, Brownlee & Dworshak * Revelstoke, Keenleyside, Mica & Duncan

Ice Harbor Dam. Courtesy of Corps of Engineers

Ice Harbor Dam: Snake River, near the confluence with the Columbia River at mile marker 9.7, completed in 1961, federally owned , concrete gravity hydroelectric, 1 lock, 2 fish ladders, 2822 feet long, 100 feet high, spillway 590 feet, 10 gates with an earth fill embankment. The dam creates Lake Sacajawea, which extends 32 miles upstream to the Lower Monumental Dam.

Lower Monumental Dam. Courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration

Lower Monumental Dam: Snake River at mile marker 41.6, completed in 1969, federally owned, concrete gravity with a short earth fill abutment, spillway 572 feet, 8 gates, 3791 feet long ,height 100 feet, 2 fish ladders, 1 lock, creates Lake Herbert G. West, 28.1 miles to the Little Goose Dam, hydroelectric.

Little Goose Dam. Courtesy of Army Corps of Engineers

Little Goose Dam: Snake River at mile marker 70.3, completed in 1970, additional units completed in 1978, federally owned, concrete gravity type hydroelectric, spillway 512 feet, 8 gates, 2665 feet long, 98 feet high. Creates Lake Bryan which extends 37.2 miles upriver to the Lower Granite Dam.

Lower Granite Dam. Courtesy of Army Corps of Engineers

Lower Granite Dam: Snake River at mile marker 107.5, completed in 1975, federally owned, concrete gravity, hydroelectric, spillway 512 feet, 8 gates with an earth fill abutment. The dam is 3200 feet long with a height of 100 feet, and employs 2 fish ladders. Lower Granite dam was the first dam on the Snake River to use screens that protected the juvenile fish from the turbines (River of Life, Channel of Death by Keith C. Peterson, Confluence Press, 1995, p.184).

Environmentalists, the four treaty tribes (Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Nez Perce), scientists, and non-native fishermen have all called for the breaching of these four lower Snake River dams to facilitate salmon habitat restoration. Doing so would leave Lewiston, Idaho without its seaport. While many have considered drawdowns a radical solution to the region's salmon crisis, recently, the idea has gained credence. The issue is a contentious one with emotions high on both sides.