A new report released today concludes that the facts simply don't support the Bonneville Power Administration's choice of dam energy over wind energy policies this spring - under the rationale of “protecting salmon".
Turns out salmon still like water.
In the report, analysts present biological data showing that Columbia and Snake River salmon populations were largely unharmed by this spring’s unusually high water and dissolved gas levels. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) chose to shut-off Northwest wind power projects’ access to the power grid over nearly two months. The report concludes BPA’s policy did little to nothing to protect salmon. Wind energy companies have since filed a lawsuit against the BPA.
Nicole Cordan, SOS’ Legal and Policy Director, “We suspected it was inaccurate for BPA to use salmon as its scapegoat to shut off wind power this year. Now the actual biological data confirms that we were right and that the great majority of migrating salmon did okay despite the large amount of spill over the dams.”
In conditions of high flows, dams can cause a condition called gas bubble trauma (GBT) in migrating salmon when large volumes of water spill over them. But less than one-tenth of one percent of salmon examined this spring and summer at the federal dams exhibited symptoms of severe gas bubble trauma and only slightly more than one percent of salmon showed any signs of trauma at all. Check out the graph below, showing the percentage of cases of all fish affected by GBT (in red):
The report has three major findings: 1) that BPA’s policy did not appreciably help salmon; 2) that Oregon’s total dissolved gas standard is better for salmon than the Washington standard BPA currently uses; and 3) that migrating salmon benefitted from high flows and increased spill while suffering little harm from increased gas levels.