Salmon vs Electricity

Cheap Energy vs the Environment
A Case Study of Priorities on the Salmon Issue

The Decline of the Northwest Salmon?

The apparent decline of the salmon in the Columbia river system is one of the most complex environmental problems we have. However, it is often simplified down to a battle of

Big Bad Corporate Interests

Innocent Fish

In other words, this problem has been over-simplified by the media and others to one single root cause, namely the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia river system. Today we assess if this simplification is valid and address the issue of where we are going to find the replacement 15,000 MW of power if/when the dams go away.

The Salmon controversy is an excellent example of arguments made largely on belief, instead of knowledge that is supported by the actual data .

JAVA Applet Alert: Run the SalmonVille Simulation

Factors Causing Salmon Decline:

Let's first look at some data:

Decline of In-River catches This frequently used as the "best" indicator for overall salmon decline in the Columbia River System

This is the raw salmon count data at Bonneville Dam. Evidence of quasi-cylical behavior is apparent.

Low Salmon counts in recent years are

Graph shows total salmon catch off the coast of North America (including Alaska).

Implication is that increases in ocean catch are directly responsible for decreases of in-river catches

Fish Counts at Bonneville:

Blue line represents growth of non-harvested fish in the Columbia River system. The implication is that competition for food/nutrients is increasing rapidly.

Its getting warmer earlier in the season with time in the Columbia river. Is this cause local (e.g. dams/agriculture) or global (e.g. Global Warming)

Graph shows harvesting by Tribal communities with protected fishing rights. Some degree of "over harvesting" is apparent.

Some relevant WWW resources for the above:

  • The Great Salmon Hoax
  • Comprehensive data source on Northwest Fish
  • Pacific Interdecadal Climate Change
  • HydroPower and the Columbia River System
  • Don't forget about Canada
  • There are international implications

    Factors that Contribute to the Incredible Shrinking Salmon:

    White Men Luv Fish

  • Important role of El Nino
  • Significant increase in Canadian Harvests
  • Fishing Technology in Alaska
  • Notes from a 50 year Alaska Native

    The above documents and data strongly suggest that a significant reason for Columbia river salmon decline is due to increased harvests in Alaska and Canada.

    This is likely a reflection of where the Salmon are and this is strongly coupled to decadel climate changes in the Alaska-BC-PNW region. This implies, that at any particular point in this region, over timescales of 50 years, salmon counts/catches will be cyclical in nature.

    More Factors:

    1. Dam Construction

      • Barriers Preventing Salmon From Migrating Upstream or Downstream
      • Habitat Destruction or reduced area (2,4,5)
      • Reduced Fresh Water Flow In Rivers and Streams (4,5)
      • Exposure to Abnormal Temperatures (3,4)

    2. Increased Logging

      • Loss of Streamside Vegetation and Functions (4,5)
      • Increased Amount Of Sediment Entering Streams (3,4,5)
      • Decreased Amount Of Large Logs In Streams And Loss of Deep Pools (5)

    3. Changing climate patterns

      • Reduced Upwelling
      • Altered Ocean Currents and Flow
      • Decreased Food Abundance
      • Reduced Numbers of Adults Reaching Their Spawning Grounds (1,5)

    4. Agriculture

      • Lack of Screening of Water Diversion Canals to Keep Fish Out (4)
      • Pesticide Exposure (2)

    5. Increased population growth

      • Forest Fragmentation (2)
      • Estuary Degradation (2)
      • Industrial Pollutants Exposure
      • Over fishing

    Power to replace Salmon Killers What are the options to finding 15,000 MW of power, continuously delivered, at 4-5 centers per KWH?:

    Is there really an acceptable alternative?

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