Chinook salmon get more protections from Snake, Columbia river dams

Published on
January 4, 2019

An agreement signed by state, federal, and trial officials after many years of deliberations has resulted in changes to the spill policies on the Snake and Columbia rivers that will benefit young salmon, according to The Seattle Times

While the agreement is expected to increase the chance of survival of young fish, it was also careful to take into account the needs of the hydroelectricity companies that use the dams to create energy, so that it won’t affect the companies’ bottom lines too greatly. 

The agreement will go into effect in time for this year’s migration season and will continue to be applicable through 2021. 

Spillage from the dams will be increased during the times of day when demand for electricity is not as high, whereas during the mornings and nights, typically the most profitable times for energy companies, spillage will be reduced. 

Elliot Mainzer, administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, which sells power created by the Columbia River Basin dams, said he was pleased was with the agreement. 

“It’s such a great opportunity to bring the region together,” he said. “We hope that we can do things differently going forward.”

Dam spillage on the Columbia River dates back to the 1970s, though salmon proponents have been fighting to up the amount since then in order to help the fish on their runs. However, since 1981, the Bonneville Power Administration has reported more than USD 7.7 billion (EUR 6.8 billion) in losses due to spillage in order to help the salmon. 

Some Washington state politicians have opposed the deal, with Republican U.S. representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers releasing a dual statement speaking out.

“The purpose of this agreement was to end litigation, but there is no indication that it will even do that,” they said. “This costly plan is worse than useless.” 

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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