Mar 4, 2013
PNP comment: It just keeps coming at us. We gotta just keep saying “NO.” — Editor Liz Bowen
WIMER, Ore. (AP) — An 8-foot-tall concrete dam built in Jackson County to divert irrigation water but abandoned more than three decades ago has made it to the state of Oregon’s top-10 list of dams and other fish-blocking structures that should be fixed or removed.
Feb 18, 2013
Originally published February 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM
A federal judge has dismissed a suit against the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s hatchery plan as moot, and the tribe has terminated its plan to stock the Elwha with nonnative steelhead.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A federal judge has thrown out a suit against the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s hatchery plan, and the tribe has backed away from stocking the Elwha River with nonnative steelhead.
The Elwha is at the center of the region’s long-running debate on hatcheries and their role in salmon recovery. A $325 million federal recovery project for the river is now under way, with one dam out of the river and another soon gone in the largest dam-removal project in history. With so much at stake, hatchery plans for the fish-recovery effort drew fire early.
Litigation was flying before the first chunks of concrete even came out. Advocates for wild fish filed notice of intent to sue in September 2011 over the new $16 million hatchery built as part of the recovery project. But portions of the lawsuit, filed in March against the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, were thrown out last week by Benjamin Settle, U.S. District Court judge for the Western District in Tacoma.
Settle found that the suit was moot because, since the suit was filed, the tribe had obtained permits from federal fisheries officials to carry out programs at its hatchery, leaving no question to settle.
“It speaks for itself,” said the tribe’s lawyer, Steven Suagee. “The initial complaint had been that the tribe didn’t have the approvals for these hatchery programs, and now we do.“
The new hatchery is to be used to supplement populations of fish that naturally recolonize the river as habitat becomes available. Ultimately, taking two dams out of the river will reopen 70 miles of habitat in the Elwha to salmon and steelhead spawning. But dam removal also is letting loose huge amounts of sediment, trapped behind the dams for a century. As the water gets muddy, the hatchery also is intended to provide a safe-harbor gene bank for four populations of fish listed for protection in the river, including steelhead.
The tribe backed away from one of the programs it sought to run at its hatchery: stocking Chambers Creek steelhead, which, while not native to the Elwha, have provided a fishing opportunity for tribal fishermen for years as native stocks in the Elwha declined because of the dams.
Dec 5, 2012
PNP comment: Really! You think bad weather MAY be the cause. Dams were build to prevent flooding. Take them out and guess what will happen. Duh! Oh, and now the farmers can sue the government that took out the dam, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. Except the farmers would actually prefer to have their land protected from flooding. — Editor Liz Bowen
Faulty construction, bad weather may be cause
By DEVAN SCHWARTZ
H&N Staff Reporter
December 5, 2012
A Lake Ewauna levee broke Sunday, flooding farmland and sending water perilously close to the Wingwatchers Interpretive Trail and a nearby railroad.
What caused the damage isn’t yet clear, though it has been attributed alternately to faulty construction and to rainy, windy conditions perfect for levee erosion.
The levee is on the west side of Lake Ewauna, east of Greensprings Drive. Tom Shaw owns the farmland, which is leased by Mike Noonan, president of Noonan Farms.
“We’d done a lot of maintenance on the dike,” said Noonan, who hypothesized that wet conditions might have contributed to the incident.
The 50-acre farmland was being used as wetland this year, though Noonan plans to plant organic potatoes there next growing season.
Leslie Lowe, president of Klamath Wingwatchers, visited the site and expressed frustration at water approaching the nonprofit’s storage shed and trail, which she said had been under water much of this year.
“We just completed $2,400 in trail repairs,” Lowe said. “As a result of that, there’s no trail flooding now.”
that, there’s no trail flooding now.”
But if Klamath gets much more rain, Lowe thinks it may cause further breaching on what she says is an improperly-compacted levee.
No damage was reported to the railroad grade or to nearby train cars containing natural gas.
Once Sunday’s levee breach was identified, local relief efforts fell quickly into place.
The Klamath Falls Police Department called Klamath County Emergency Manager George Buckingham that afternoon with news of the incident.
Buckingham then called the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency in charge of regulating lake and river levels in the Klamath Project area.
Bob Gravely, spokesman for PacifiCorp, said the company was contacted by the Bureau at 10 p.m. asking if it could lower the level of Lake Ewauna.
In order to do so, PacifiCorp slowed the release of water from Upper Klamath Lake via the Link River Dam; at the southern end of Lake Ewauna, they released extra water via the Keno Dam.
This lowered Lake Ewauna by half a foot. Its current level is around 4,085.2 feet, measurable as the elevation above sea level.
The normal operating range for Lake Ewauna is between 4,085 feet and 4,086.5, Gravely said.
“There’s no reason for us to ever drop it that low,” he added, “but we responded to the Bureau’s request.”
Low Link River causes concerns about fish
With nets in hand, Keith Schultz and fellow Bureau of Reclamation fish biologists headed to the Link River on Monday and Tuesday to ensure that endangered sucker were not stranded by the diminished flow.
Link River had fallen well below 200 CFS (cubic feet per second) on Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey gauge — lower than at any time in the last five years.
Kevin Schultz reported finding stranded fish in cracks between rocks that included sculpin, chub and dace but no sucker. His team recommended that PacifiCorp raise the flows back up to 250 CFS so these fish could reenter the main stream.
As of Tuesday morning, flows had returned to Schultz’ recommended level.
A cubic foot of water is roughly equivalent to a basketball’s volume. Therefore, 250 CFS means 250 basketballs of water are floating downstream every second.
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This information and much more that you need to know about the ESA,
the Klamath River Basin, and private property rights can be found at The
Klamath Bucket Brigade’s web site – http://klamathbucketbrigade.org/index.html –
please visit today.
Dec 2, 2012
PNP comment: Hum, a fish ladder was built by PacifiCorp and fish are using it! And the KBRA and KHSA agreements on the Klamath River won’t even consider fish ladders as an alternative. The Siskiyou Water Users have engineered several fish ladders that could be used — and they are a lot cheaper than the billion dollar cost of destroying four perfectly-maintained hydro-electric dams in the Klamath River. — Editor Liz Bowen
News November 24, 2012
TOKETEE — Spawning salmon and steelhead can now jump and swim through a man-made passage over the Soda Springs Dam to a portion of the North Umpqua River the fish haven’t traveled for 60 years.
Construction wrapped up this month on PacifiCorp’s $60 million fish ladder, and salmon already are using it. The ladder’s completion after nearly three years of construction also concludes a 17-year debate on whether to build a fish passage or tear out the dam 60 miles east of Roseburg
Monte Garrett, who led the project for PacifiCorp, said the fish passage balanced competing interests. The dam will continue to produce clean hydroelectricity for customers, while the ladder will enhance fish runs and protect wildlife, he said.
Removing the dam would have cost as much as the fish passage and would have raised electric rates because of the lost hydropower, Garrett said.
“Clearly, the studies showed that the best thing for the fish is to not have the dam here, but on balance the best thing for the fish and renewable energy is to have the dam in place but have a fish passage,” he said.
In 2003, federal regulators renewed PacifiCorp’s license to operate the Soda Springs Dam for the next 35 years, but the utility was required to build a fish passage.
PacifiCorp hired Douglas County contractors to build the ladder. At the peak of construction, about 100 workers were employed. The primary contractor, Todd Construction, started in Douglas County and now has headquarters in Portland. The other contractor, Weekly Bros. Inc., is based in Idleyld Park.
While impressed with the engineering feats that made the Soda Springs fish ladder possible, conservationists who attended a public tour of the dam this month expressed lingering skepticism.
“I think the best thing would be to take the dam out,” said Stan Vejtasa, conservation chairman for the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society. “If they knew how much (the fish ladder) would have cost, they wouldn’t have kept the dam.”
Since PacifiCorp doesn’t plan to remove the dam, Vejtasa said he attended the field trip to check out the fish ladder.
“I just want to make sure the fish survive their passage,” he said.
As construction drew to a close on the Soda Springs ladder, fish began safely traveling through it to new habitat, which includes three miles of Fish Creek and three miles of the North Umpqua River.
Workers finishing the project reported seeing large fish swimming upstream of the dam. Salmon have been spotted spawning above the dam near the confluence with Fish Creek.
Nov 8, 2012
Fresh ideas on nature and community.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently reported a startling statistic: Double-crested cormorants living at the mouth of the Columbia River are eating 18 percent of the juvenile salmon swimming toward the ocean.
The agency is looking for ways to reduce the impacts cormorants have on protected species of salmon and steelhead, and it has a list of options including hazing the birds, changing their habitat at East Sand Island, or maybe even killing some.
Using studies of the birds’ stomach contents and fish tags found in bird droppings, among other methods, scientists have determined that the cormorants ate an estimated 20.5 million salmon and steelhead smolts last year. That’s up from 19.2 million in 2010 and more than double the average of what the birds ate annually from 2000 to 2009.
OPB’s Vince Patton was wondering whether the number of smolts killed by cormorants last year rivals the number that are killed by dams. As soon as he asked, I knew I would have to find the answer.
According to Corps biologist Brad Eppard, it’s tricky to compare the number of fish eaten by birds at the mouth of the river to the number that die while passing through the eight federal dams in the Columbia River Basin.
Only some fish go through all eight dams – the ones that hatch in the upper reaches of the river system. Others only go through seven dams or six or five or … you get the picture. But all the surviving fish are swimming through the estuary and right by the largest cormorant colony in western North America.
According to Eppard, the survival rate through each dam is 96 percent or better.
So, he said, the cormorants are definitely killing more baby salmon and steelhead than Bonneville Dam, and it’s probably safe to say you could add a couple more dams to the tally before the number of smolts killed by dams would surpass the number killed by cormorants.
The survival rate for all outmigrating salmon and steelhead going through all eight dams is 53 percent, Eppard said. That’s taking into account other impacts such as avian predators, pike minnow and bass that are also known to eat salmon and steelhead smolts.
So, by comparison, the cormorants are a fraction of the total impacts to juvenile salmonids throughout the river system. But it’s a healthy fraction. There are about 150 million smolts that make it to the section of the lower estuary where the cormorants live. And the cormorants claim about 18 percent of those.
Caspian terns – another bird that nests at the mouth of the river – took about 5 million smolts last year. But that’s down from about 6.5 million in 2008.
The Corps has reduced the habitat available for Caspian terns at the mouth of the Columbia and built new nesting space in other locations to shrink their impact on salmon and steelhead listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. (see the Oregon Field Guide episode above)
Now the agency is looking to do the same with the cormorants. There are several public meetings coming up to discuss their proposals:
On Thursday from 5 to 8 pm at the Phoenix Inn, 415 Capital Way N., in Olympia, Wash.;
On Nov. 13 from 5 to 8 pm at the Red Lion Lloyd Center, 1021 NE Grand Ave. in Portland; and
On Nov. 15 from 5 to 8 pm at the Holiday Inn Express, 204 W. Marine Dr., in Astoria.