Hydropower

Clean Water Programs

  • Participates in Watershed Resource Inventory Areas Planning and in county, local and agency supported programs
  • Partners with Washington Water Trust
  • Participates in Cooperative Resource Area Management and Grazing Reform
  • Supports reform of Washington water laws and policies
  • Supports mining reform and clean up
  • Supports non-profit pollution and septic management regulations

The Pacific NW is facing a water shortage crisis with the lack of rainfall and snow pack in the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges. The reservoirs that are used to store water behind these dams for hydropower and to provide adequate flows for our trout, salmon and steelhead are at dangerously low levels.

The federal government recently order Bonneville Administration to produce more power by flowing more water using the hydropower dams on the Columbia River. This water was to be saved for salmon protection measure already in place.

Conservation and environmental organizations are extremely concerned about where the water will be for saving salmon if there is not an increase in amount of rain fall in the next few months and/or if the federal government continues to order power be provided by means of hydropower from the Pacific NW.

We must all conserve our electric power usage if we are going to have any hope of protecting ESA stocks in the region.

Since October, flows into Riffe Reservoir have been some of the lowest on record. Currently, project inflows are approximately 2,900 cfs, about 34% of average for this time of year. Riffe Reservoir is now at an elevation of 658.5 feet, 120 feet below full. This puts Riffe Reservoir elevation over 8 feet lower than the previous historic low elevation of 667 which occurred in March 1977. At the present rate of discharge, Riffe Reservoir is drafting at a rate of approximately 0.7 feet per day.

The active storage in Riffe Reservoir is being rapidly depleted. Our current estimates on the lowest usable elevation are 600 feet. Once Riffe Reservoir reaches an elevation of 600 feet, the Mossyrock powerhouse generating units will no longer be able to operate or pass water. However, since these dramatically low reservoir elevations have never been experienced in the history of the project, it is possible that we will encounter problems with generating units prior to 600 feet.

Once generation is no longer possible from Mossyrock, the only possible discharge from Riffe Reservoir will be via the Mossyrock Dam river outlet valve (ROV). At 600 feet the ROV has an estimated hydraulic capacity of 2,000 cfs. This will mean a maximum possible discharge from Mayfield powerhouse of approximately 2,500 cfs.

On Friday, January 19, Tacoma Power and Harza Engineering Company conducted a redd survey of three critical sites on the lower Cowlitz River. Redds were present at all three sites. At the second site, emerged Chinook fry were present in the margins. Minimum tail spill depth was six-tenths of a foot. It was determined that a reduction of discharge from 5,000 cfs to 4,150 cfs (a difference of 0.5 feet of stage) would have no undue impact on the existing redds.

DamIn response to the conditions listed above, On January 19, Tacoma Power will be reducing discharge from Mayfield powerhouse from 5,000 cfs to about 4,150 cfs. This decrease in discharge will result in about a six-inch (0.5 feet) reduction of river stage height at the Mayfield gauge. To best assure the safety of emerged fry, Tacoma will down ramp Mayfield discharge as slowly as our generating units permit. It is estimated that the down ramp rate will be less than 1 inch per hour, as opposed to the 2 inches per hour recommended for this time of year.


If conditions do not improve in the near future, it may be necessary to reduce flows even further.

From the morning TIDE Washington's Dams Are High and Dry.

A long-forgotten landscape is emerging in ghostly mud-brown hues from Riffe Lake. At the east end of the 23.5-mile-long reservoir lies the unveiled plain of Kosmos, the ruins of a 19th century Cowlitz River village that's been underwater for 30 years. The lake hasn't been this low since 1968, when it filled in behind the Mossyrock Dam. It's 10 feet lower than the record set in 1977, and the water level is dropping farther every day, creating both a natural marvel and a potential economic disaster. In this unusually dry winter, Northwest utilities must wring more power from their usually reliable storage batteries, hydroelectric dams with reservoirs that once seemed inexhaustible. To keep up with demand, the Bonneville Power Administration that oversees Columbia River hydroelectric power last week said it would have to run the system extra hard to avoid a 1,000-megawatt shortfall in the Northwest -- where Seattle alone uses about 1,100 megawatts at all times.

http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/local/dry24.shtml

Salmon Recovery Suffers Setbacks Amid Power Crisis From the ENN ewswire
http://www.enn.com/news/wire-stories/2001/01/01242001/krt_salmon_41573.asp Need links

IDE

January 19, 2001 by Ed Hunt
A link-enhanced version of this column appears at http://www.tidepool.org/ebbtide/ebb.cfm
Powerpolitix

Assessing Damage in the Dark
And speaking of dams and fish, BPA declared a power emergency this week and started spilling extra water over its turbines to generate more power. This is bad news for spring Chinook, since that water is meant for maintaining minimum flows for migrating salmon as an alternative to dam breaching. But it is just one example of how environmental concerns are finding themselves on the losing end of California's energy deregulation nightmare -- which is quickly spreading to the Northwest and even BC. The golden state's rolling blackouts have prompted calls for fast-tracking gas power plant construction and oil drilling, as well as the completion of a nuclear reactor -- at Hanford. Bush is using the energy crisis to pry open drilling in a wildlife refuge, and car makers are using the power crunch to attack California's already weakened requirement for more zero emission vehicles. Ironically, some support for deregulation came from claims that renewable power companies would be able to compete with less environmentally friendly sources. Yet, Salon reported this week that many green power companies have recently ceased operations -- pushed out by the big power wholesalers and long term contracts. On the one hand, deregulation and the current crisis raised the profile of green power as an alternative, yet renewable energy may fare even worse if there is a rush to overbuild nonrenewable power plants.

Worth Reading: Green Power in the Red http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2001/01/18/green_power/index.html?CP=MOR&

Worth Reading: The Internet Becomes An Energy Crisis Scapegoat
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2001/01/17/net_power/index.html

Worth Reading: How California Lost Its Power
Need link

NW Fishletter
.nSKAGIT Chums, Chinook Take Possible Hit

Concern over another chum stock made the news recently, after hydro operations on the Baker River, a tributary of the Skagit in northwest Washington, inadvertently dewatered several hundred chum and chinook redds near the town of Concrete. Flows in the river slowed to a trickle after Puget Sound Energy began refilling a reservoir over the Thanksgiving holiday when power demands were down. Redds near the confluence of the Baker and Skagit Rivers and some length downriver were possibly affected.

The state Department of Ecology told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that mostly chums were affected, but a DOE spokesman said more than 220 ESA-listed chinook redds were de-watered as well. Biologists were not able to tell whether the eggs were destroyed. Environmentalists have threatened to sue over the issue, saying that PSE had "previously exhausted its reservoir to take advantage of high power rates in California."
PSE spokesman Roger Thompson said the notion that high market prices are the reason for the lack of water is not accurate. "The region has been faced with a serious lack of rain," said Thompson, who noted that streams in the Skagit Basin have been at half to one-third of their average flows. The Baker River only normally contributes about 15 percent of the flow to the Skagit below the town of Concrete, Thompson said.
Since PSE has only enough generating capacity for about 20 percent of its customers, he said it's not fair to characterize his company as profiting from the problems in California. "We have a commitment to keeping the lights on for our own customers first," he said.

Thompson said PSE and Seattle City Light have been pulsing water from their projects in an attempt to keep redds wet and confer on an almost daily basis with fish management agencies on their operation. He also noted that PSE will defer project maintenance at the Baker facility that would have cut flows even further until March.

WDFW biologist Pete Castle told NW Fishletter that one-quarter to one-half of the redds below Concrete could be lost, but he said about 85 percent of the salmon spawn above the town. He also noted that a "mostly tribal" fishery harvested about 15,000 chums bound for the Skagit last fall. "In hindsight," Castle said, "maybe they should not have fished." B.R.

3:02/01. Ferc to Consider Strteamlining Dam Licensing, Hydro Industry Pushing to Eliminate fish Protections: In accordance with directions from the 106th Congress, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) - the U.S. agency responsible for regulating all private hydropower dams - will hold a series of public meetings around the country, from 8-18 January, as it prepares a report to Congress outlining ways to reduce the cost and time of obtaining a hydropower dam license. The vast majority of the nation hydropower dams, many of them highly destructive of river resources, must be relicensed by FERC within the next two decades. The hydropower industry has long chaffed at current requirements that fish and wildlife needs require equal consideration with power production, and in fact helped draft bills in the 106th Congress (H.R. 2335 and S. 740) that would have streamlined the licensing process at the expense of fish and wildlife protections. The industry and some members of Congress have also sought to eliminate the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) and US Fish & Wildlife Service's (USFWS) independent review authority over dam relicensing when a dam affects species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). One industry "streamlining" proposal has long been to carve out ESA exemptions for relicensing by stripping ESA trustee agencies of that ESA co-jurisdiction. FERC's report is expected to play a role in the incoming Bush Administration's efforts to craft a national energy policy and to influence Congress in that debate.

The only west coast FERC meetings will be: 17 January in Portland (Airport Holiday Inn, 8439 N.E. Columbia, Portland, OR (503)256- 5000) and; 18 January in Sacramento (Vagabond Executive Inn, 2030 Arden Way, Sacramento, CA (916)929-5600), both meetings commencing at 0900. FERC will also be accepting written comments until 1 February 2001.

For more information on this process see: http://www.ferc.fed.us/hydro/docs/section603.htm.
For more information on the FERC relicensing process generally and the need for fish and wildlife protections in that process contact:
Matt Sicchio, Coordinator, Hydropower Reform Coalition, American Rivers, msicchio@amrivers.org, (202)347-7550 x3021

Brett Swift, Associate Director of NW Hydropower Programs, bswift@amrivers.org

The morning TIDE the top ten links from Tidepool for February 05, 2001

Power Crisis Heats Up Fish Fight.
Bonneville Power Administration's decision last month to give up water saved for salmon exposes a thorny new reality: In a power crisis, all deals to protect fish are off. The decision poses a question nobody wants to confront: What price salmon? BPA officials said they had no choice. The agency faced buying extra power at stratospheric prices or stepping up power production at federal dams by draining reservoirs of water saved to boost spring river flows and aid salmon. They chose the latter, they said, to avert an agency fiscal crisis. Salmon advocates are alarmed. They say the decision to release water shows that, at crunch time, salmon will be sacrificed for power and that federal promises to help the beleaguered fish cannot be counted upon. With Western power markets tightening, they say, that's bad news for salmon. (2-5-01) From the Oregonian.
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf?/news/oregonian/01/02/lc_22fish05.frame

More Salmon News and Resources
http://www.tidepool.org/id.salmon.html
Wynoochee River Project
Lewis River Hydroelectric Projects
Puget Sound Energy's Baker River Project
Cushman Dam Project
Cowlitz River Project
Nisqually River Project
More sites to come in the future including Seattle City Light
Bonneville Power Administration




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