Tag Archives: Hydropower

Lipstick on a Pig – Hydropower Impacts on Wild Fish

The representatives of the 4 H’s (Hydro, Harvest, Hatchery and Habitat) are working overtime to paint a pretty picture here in Oregon. Lately I’ve been seeing lots of TV ads from groups like the Associated Oregon Loggers, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Northwest River Partners, and others. The commercials feature shots of lush, green forests, and crystal clear mountain streams filled with salmon and steelhead making their way upstream. (Must be buying stock footage from video shot in Alaska). They tout the benefits of the Oregon Forest Practices Rules, Clean Hydropower, Commercial Fishing and other “great” things that those industries provide.

The rules and regulations put into place in the 1970’s were great … for the 1970’s. It stopped the wholesale destruction of Oregon Forests and Farmland, the watersheds within, and the fish and wildlife that resided there. Those 40 year old policies did some good. It probably kept several anadromous fish runs from extinction. (See prior blog post here)

Grand_Coulee_Dam_Panorama_Smaller

“Clean Hyro” is that latest label used by the Hydropower Industry.  In my mind, it’s just lipstick on a pig.  We’re talking about dams that were built as far back as 90 years ago!  Just how clean can that be. Sure, Hydro doesn’t produce toxic waste in vast quantities, so in that regard, it is clean. But it does have some serious, permanent, long term effects on a river system.   The most obvious of course is cutting off access to spawning grounds.  Grand Coulee Dam blocked 1,100 miles of natural spawning habitat for Chinook, Sockeye and Coho Salmon, Steelhead, and Lamprey Eels and flooded 21,000 acres of land.  It also opened the door for building dams elsewhere on the Columbia and Snake River systems without regard for native fish runs. Today it’s estimated that between 40 -60% of Columbia Basin spawning grounds are inaccessible to anadromous fish. Continue reading