Thursday, April 26, 2012

Judge Redden Supports Dam Removal

Time for a Solutions Table 

Yesterday, via a video interview with Earthfix news, U.S. Judge James Redden endorsed lower Snake River dam removal to save wild salmon.

Judge Redden, who resigned from the long-running salmon case last November after more than a decade, is intimately familiar with both the law and the science around Snake River salmon restoration. His remarks are his strongest statement on federal salmon policy to date. 


Monday, April 9, 2012

Party Time! Turning 20 in 2012

We're having a party, and you're invited!

In honor of our 20th anniversary, Keen footwear is hosting a party for us here in Portland. We'll have beverages, delicious food, DJ Jimbo spinning tunes, fabulous raffle items, and some truly inspirational guest speakers.

WHEN: Thursday, April 19
TIME: 6-9 PM
WHERE: KEEN headquarters, 926 NW 13th Ave #210 (upstairs), Portland, OR
FREE Admission

Please join us in celebrating 20 years uniting people for salmon, rivers, and jobs.

RSVP on Facebook.

Interested in volunteering? Contact

Special thanks to our sponsors! Keen Footwear, Lagunitas Brewing, Klean Kanteen, Osprey Packs, Patagonia, Mother's Bistro, Under Solen, Circa 33, Bishops Barbershop, Bob's Red Mill

Thursday, April 5, 2012

BPA stifling opportunities for salmon, wind, and jobs

image credit: Garrett Downen

You’ve likely noticed an increase in posts on our website and blog about wind energy, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and strange, Orwellian phrases like “oversupply management” and “power over-generation.” And you might be asking: what does this have to do with saving wild salmon?

Turns out: A LOT. Our efforts at restoring the lower Snake River for threatened salmon and steelhead populations, and improving salmon passage at Columbia River dams, have a lot of overlap with Northwest electricity, since the largest killer of fish is our hydroelectric dams. And it’s why our Coalition is proud to work alongside groups like the NW Energy Coalition, that are leading the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The truth is that saving salmon and developing innovative renewable power sources like wind, solar, and energy efficiency provide an opportunity to achieve mutually beneficial goals. More power generated by renewables means less power needed from the hydrosystem, which in turn means restored fish, more jobs, and cleaner energy for the Northwest. But the current policies of the Bonneville Power Administration run counter to this opportunity, and counter to important priorities of the Obama administration.

Too much hydropower?

We’re lucky in the Northwest to have abundant renewable power sources. In fact, last year we had so much snow that our rivers filled and huge amounts of water pushed through the 200+ hydroelectric dams of the Columbia and Snake River basins. We actually had TOO MUCH hydropower in the spring last year (this will likely be the case into the near future). So BPA regularly turned off wind farms’ access to the transmission grid over a 2-month period, depriving them of millions of dollars in revenue.

BPA framed this issue in the media as an oversupply problem – “too much wind” which the agency simply couldn’t keep up with. But the base problem was too much hydro, a predictable situation BPA had several years to plan for that it did not take good advantage of.

BPA blames fish.

BPA’s justification for cutting off wind energy last year was that it was "necessary" to protect endangered salmon. This is false. Salmon have higher survival when the river runs like a river; not surprisingly, their odds of surviving their downstream journey increase if they’re washed over the tops of dams rather than sucked through power turbines or physically collected and trucked or barged downstream. It’s true that too much water spilling over the tops of dams can create harmful gas levels in the water, but the science has long been clear that salmon largely benefit from additional spill. Indeed, our analysis showed that even the high levels of gas last spring and summer were a minor issue for migrating salmon.

That’s why SOS’s fishing and conservation groups are urging BPA to adopt policies that increase spill, thus helping both salmon and the wind industry. (read the full breakdown)

National media takes note - Congress begins to weigh in.

BPA’s decision to cut off wind and blame salmon has received national media attention. Recently, New York Times – Green Blog reporter Matthew Wald published an update on the issue.

Wald’s article highlights the disconnect between BPA’s proposals and the Obama administration’s clean energy priorities. The U.S. Department of Energy’s goal is to produce 20% of America’s electricity from wind power by 2030. BPA’s policy needlessly discourages wind industry growth essential to achieving that goal.

Members of Congress have also taken note. In early 2011, before BPA initiated their wind cut-off policy, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sent a letter to BPA expressing concern over the policy and urging the agency to delay formal adoption and allow for alternative approaches.

Then in May of 2011, Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "I strongly encourage DOE [Department of Energy] to work with BPA to consider all potential alternatives," Markey wrote in the letter. "I ask that BPA pursue options that may be available to avoid a situation that could severely limit current wind production and future development in the Pacific Northwest as well as set a negative precedent nationally for addressing future renewable energy integration challenges," Markey continued.

Markey’s comments make clear that BPA’s policies are deserving of this national attention and oversight.

Opportunity, not “Problem”

As mentioned, this issue isn’t going away. Odds are good we’ll again have too much power this spring. But the situation offers an opportunity – not a problem – for our regional and national leaders to take actions this year, and in the next 5-10 years, that benefit fish, clean energy, jobs, and ratepayers. We will continue to fight for better BPA policies that seize this opportunity, starting this spring.

Here’s a timeline of the last year to help illustrate what’s happened so far:

Winter 2010-11: Heavy snows pack our mountains.

Spring 2011: Snow pack begins melting, increasing water levels in NW rivers to very high levels.

February 18, 2011: BPA issues “Draft Record of Decision on Environmental Redispatch and Negative Pricing Policy,” the oddly-named proposal to shut down wind power in high water conditions.

May 12, 2011: Op-Ed by SOS executive director Pat Ford runs in the Seattle Times.

May 13, 2011: BPA issues final Record of Decision, thereby implementing the so-called “Environmental Redispatch” policy.

May 18, 2011: First wind farms curtailed as a result of the policy.

June 11, 2011: Wind industry members file official complaint with FERC against BPA.

July 10, 2011: Last of the curtailments of wind occur and wind farms resume normal operation.

July 18, 2011: SOS intervenes in the complaint to FERC on the side of salmon .

September 21, 2011: SOS releases report on the impact of dissolved gas on salmon following the curtailment policy and finds NO BIOLOGICAL BASIS for the policy.

December 7, 2011: FERC rules in favor of the wind industry and salmon.

February 7, 2012: BPA publicly presents a new draft protocol for 2012 in response to the ruling from FERC.

February 7 - February 21, 2012: Nearly 90 groups submit comments on BPA’s draft protocol, nearly all in opposition.

March 6, 2012: BPA formally submits its protocol to FERC, ignoring the vast majority of the comments submitted.

March 27, 2012: SOS files an official protest and comments with FERC, again citing the lack of biological basis for BPA’s curtailment policy, and instead proposing practical solutions that benefit both salmon and clean energy.

Trail Runner features The Great Salmon Run

Luke Nelson and Ty Draney in the Snake River Basin © Matt Irving
Trail Runner Magazine recently published a great feature article from endurance runner Luke Nelson, telling the story of his truly epic journey, along with fellow ultrarunner Ty Draney, through some of the best salmon habitat left in the world: the Snake River Basin.

How epic?  We're talking about a "two-day run of well over 120 miles of rugged terrain with a total elevation gain of about 20,000 feet" kind of epic.

Here's the intro:

The cold penetrates to my core. I am lying underneath my giant Forest Service map as a rogue thunderstorm bathes the canyon, an intense deluge that lasts about 30 minutes. Ty Draney, my good friend and ultrarunner extraordinaire, who is under the other map that we brought, sounds like he is getting some rest. I am incredibly envious that he is able to doze off, as I am shivering far too hard to coax my body into even a light sleep. The rain quickly passes, and I endure the shivering for another 10 to 15 minutes. Then I crack. I wake Ty and again we force our depleted bodies to move.

Several years before I found myself sleeping under an oversize map, I worked on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River as a raft guide. That summer I often pondered what it would be like to travel through the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness along the river on the trail. I didn't run at the time, and it seemed impossible—80 miles of travel along the river followed by another 40 or so to get back to civilization. Yet the seed had been planted.

Read on over at Trail Runner