June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

BPA, PPC, residents discuss future of Willamette Valley hydropower

25 min read
While the Willamette dams will be preserved for flood control, Congress wants a cost-benefit analysis of their hydropower production by June 2024. Residents were asked to share their thoughts.

Oregonians weigh in on the future of Willamette Valley hydropower. Introducing the listening sessions Nov. 13:

Dustin Bengtson (USACE): My name is Dustin Bengtson, Operations Project Manager for the Corps of Engineers, Willamette Valley Project… We are here to capture feedback on the future of federal hydropower in the Willamette Valley system.

[00:00:20] Eight plants produce hydropower in the system. Those are: Big Cliff in Detroit on the North Santiam; Foster and Green Peter dams on the South Santiam; Cougar up the McKenzie; and then up the Middle Fork, Dexter, Lookout Point, and Hills Creek dams.

[00:00:36] Our primary authorized purpose that we typically focus on is flood risk management and everybody’s familiar with what the dams provide in terms of flood risk management or reduced damages in the basin. We also have authorities for: navigation; fish and wildlife; water supply and water quality; hydropower; irrigation; and recreation. And outside of managing that risk to the public downstream, we historically have used the way we operate the dams and the way we stored water to optimize the benefits from those authorized purposes to the best of our ability.

[00:01:08] The intent of our three listening sessions: gathering your perspectives and opinions on the potential deauthorization of hydropower as a purpose across our system of dams. That (deauthorization) would mean that we would potentially no longer have the authority to produce hydropower in the system.

[00:01:26] John Q: The Corps heard from the Bonneville Power Administration and the Public Power Council.

[00:01:32] Jesse Kintz: I’m commenting on behalf of Bonneville Power Administration. During its September public meetings on the Water Resource Development Act 2022, Section 8220, the Corps described the number of impacts on dam safety, environmental quality, and local electricity service as potential consequences of deauthorizing hydropower at Willamette dams. It is important to clarify that many of these impacts are already present because of the reservoir operations ordered by the U.S. District Court in the Endangered Species Act litigation about the Willamette dams.

[00:02:12] Further, and while no decision has been made on the final environmental impact statement for the Willamette Valley system, the Corps has proposed in its Draft Willamette Environmental Impact Statement to continue these injunction operations as ‘near-term operations’ for many years until structural alternatives for fish passage and water quality are completed and proven effective. These operations would continue with or without the authorization of commercial hydropower generation.

[00:02:44] Additionally, at the September meetings, it was discussed that changes to turn hydropower production on or off at specific Willamette dams could be responsive to the needs of individual homes nearby. It’s important to clarify that any hydropower produced at Willamette dams does not correlate directly to retail electricity service at nearby homes.

[00:03:08] The Bonneville Power Administration looks forward to continuing to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on this congressionally-directed analysis on hydropower in the Willamette Valley system.

[00:03:18] With generation reductions and additional cost drivers likely to further erode the value of commercial or marketable power generation, Bonneville believes it is prudent to give Congress and the region a thorough, accurate, and transparent analysis of the impacts and benefits of removing the federal hydropower authorization from some or all of the Willamette Valley system, as Congress has directed.

[00:03:42] Scott Simms: My name is Scott Simms, and I’m the CEO and executive director of the Public Power Council, or PPC. So, PPC is the broadest trade association of Northwest Public Power, representing the full diversity of utilities with preference rights to purchase wholesale power and transmission services from BPA at cost.

[00:04:00] Together, these consumer-owned utilities have the responsibility for funding all of BPA’s power services operations, which includes the costs of the Willamette Valley system and the largest and most sophisticated environmental mitigation program in the nation.

[00:04:13] PPC has long expressed concerns about the economic vitality or viability of power generation at the Willamette Valley hydro projects, absent significant cost reallocation between authorized purposes.

[00:04:25] PPC urges the Corps to promptly fulfill its obligations under the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. WRDA 2022 gives the Corps all the necessary authority to conduct a full disposition study, not just the Phase One study. Narrowing the scope to just Phase One is unacceptable. The Willamette Valley System is a regional asset and decisions regarding its future operations should be based on regional benefits to the Pacific Northwest.

[00:04:52] There is uniquely broad consensus across power, environmental, and tribal stakeholders on the potential benefits of deauthorization of power generation for these projects. Let me be clear: Deauthorization would retain other dam purposes, and the dams would remain. This is just about the power production aspect.

[00:05:09] The cost outlook of the projects, already among the most expensive on the federal system, is further threatened by the proposed structural measures in the preferred alternative of the Willamette Valley System Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. The proposed structural changes are both massively expensive and speculative in their biological benefits for endangered species.

[00:05:28] Injunction operations substantially degrade the power characteristics of the projects in terms of the overall output and availability to meet needs during periods of high demand and during high market prices.

[00:05:38] It is essential to acknowledge that through the Draft EIS, the Corps has unilaterally proposed to implement injunction operations for decades, if not indefinitely. The degradation of power production from these operations must be fully incorporated in any analysis of power system value. The economic question for deauthorization of power production is whether the output of the projects can be replaced at lower cost with alternative carbon-free resources. Power customers in partnership with BPA are best positioned to ultimately advise Congress in this question.

[00:06:06] It’s essential that the Corps analysis separate the impacts of power deauthorization and injunction operations for other purposes. Power deauthorization is a prospective question that is separate from the impacts of the injunction, which are currently dictating reservoir operations. Power production has little or no impact on these operations.

[00:06:22] Further, power customers continue to bear historical costs of power production, including fish and wildlife mitigation regardless of prospective deauthorization.

[00:06:31] John Q: Speakers expressed concern about future electricity supply, and the impacts on energy prices and rural Oregon.

[00:06:40] Rep. James Hieb: Hi. It’s James Hieb, state representative. The rivers here in the Willamette Valley actually run through my district. I fish along the (confluence of the Clackamas and Willamette—the ‘Clackamette’) river and the salmon runs are not being hindered. I’ve seen the fish ladders there. They’re working.

[00:06:56] What really worries me is this drawdown of coal energy in Oregon. We are shutting down our coal power plants. We banned nuclear energy. There’s people trying to ban petroleum, diesel and gasoline that run our trains and vehicles and also trying to ban the use of liquid natural gas.

[00:07:15] We need to be diversifying our energy, not focusing on just solar or just wind energy. We need it to have redundancy in the system or our electrical grid will fail and ultimately it’ll cost people their lives. We saw natural disasters over the last couple of years, the ice storm that we had, the fires we’ve seen, all sorts of calamities where we need redundancy in our system.

[00:07:45] And this is going to put people at risk. I can see national security issues with it as well as domestic issues when our grid is overburdened and we’ve got to turn on the light switches and they don’t work.

[00:07:59] But, yeah, I believe we need to keep the dams. And I do believe getting rid of the energy production is just one step towards removing the dams. And there’s so many ancillary benefits of the dams. And ironically, there were people introducing legislation this last time around about needing to introduce beavers because we need more dams to slow the flow of water down the river.

[00:08:23] The dams need to remain. I don’t see any good point in taking them out. It’s only going to be a negative on our community.

[00:08:32] Angela Spencer: Hello, my name is Angela Spencer and I actually came here because of concerns about the drawdown, but I am learning that this is not the forum for that. What I’m really concerned about is our rural community that I live in… I just really think that we need to do a lot of research and asking the public who live in these communities, how they’re feeling about removing hydropower.

[00:08:57] Corrie Fountain: My name is Corrie Fountain, I’m a lifelong resident of Oregon. I’ve lived in Lebanon, Sweet Home. My parents are from Sweet Home. They remember when the dam was built at Green Peter. I think my concerns with discontinuing hydropower for our area it the financial impact, both from increased power costs and basically recreation being decimated to the area.

[00:09:22] We have seen astronomical cost of living increases in the last couple of years, tax after tax, and I think to add increased power costs for our families at this point is basically unethical if you remove hydropower. I also think that these small towns, they rely on the reservoirs for people coming through for spending money. It’s a huge loss of revenue. If there’s no longer these reservoirs for people to come to and I think that’s a big thing to take into consideration is that it’s a loss of livelihood for a lot of people. And so I think we really need to start listening to the people that this affects.

[00:10:05] I feel like a lot of us have been the silent majority for a long time, but I don’t think that we can continue to be silent.

[00:10:11] David Lippold: Hi, I’m David Lippold, so I have grown up in the Wyoming Valley, I’m in the Jefferson area, I’ve swum in the rivers, and I’ve been here my life. I love this place. My family raised me to appreciate the environment. And we’ve had a tree farm. We love farming. We’re all about it. I just want to express concern about the disabling of the hydropower at these dams for in this present time of seemingly increasing energy insecurity globally. The idea of taking an existing structure that provides a good amount of power, whether it’s four percent or 900,000 homes, it’s still structurally already generating power in a renewable fashion at a lot greater rate than we can get from solar without the pollution. So I’d like to encourage retaining the hydropower and coming up with creative ideas and solutions, to address any undue impact on the fish and the wildlife.

[00:11:21] Don Beckman: It just seems to me in an era of global warming, where we’re trying to get away from fossil fuels in the direction of renewable energy, when we’re facing the electrification of cars and the demands for electricity being increased, it seems like deauthorizing hydroelectric dams is just we’re going in the opposite direction. We should be building more of them, not deauthorizing them.

[00:11:48] Stan Hayes: This is Stan Hayes. I’m a consulting engineer in the large water resources field my whole career. I’m speaking as a private citizen here… It would seem to be less than cost-beneficial or less of a regional benefit to the society to completely eliminate hydropower rather than just adjusting the operations of the hydropower to better facilitate other uses and distribution of benefits that the facilities currently provide.

[00:12:13] Frank Lemmon: My name is Frank Lemmon and I’m a resident of Salem, Oregon. I’m in favor of assisting endangered species, but I’m also concerned how the demand for electric power will be serviced if hydroelectric generation is ceased in all the dams. And I hope that any plan to deauthorize hydroelectric generation will provide options for backfilling the lost generation capacity.

[00:12:38] Heather Gray: I’m Heather Gray and I live in Stayton, which is close to the Highway 22 and I’m very much in favor of hydropower and with all the prices rising for everything and with so many people struggling to get by in the area, I think it would be absolutely horrible to get rid of hydropower. People may not be able to afford power if you keep making the cost of power go up.

[00:13:03] Jerry Valencia: This is Jerry Valencia. I live on the lake, Dexter Lake, and we’re looking at a lake now that, from Lookout to Dexter, we have nothing but chocolate brown silt in Dexter now, and we believe that we are doing adverse conditions to the existing fish that we have here and are killing everything upstream.

[00:13:30] We haven’t done diddly producing hydropower, we’ve been relying on just Bonneville for a long time. And at the end of the day, we haven’t taken into account the economic impacts to communities like Lowell and Sweet Home because we no longer have a lake where recreational people come up, bass fishermen come up.

[00:13:54] When we shut down the community of Lowell in 1946-1952 to build the three dams, we lost all of our infrastructure and our industry. And we’re having to start all over again in this community and we’re doing the same thing that we did in the ‘50s without having any consideration to the livelihood or the community employment and the community enhancements that we usually have with the amount of people that have actually come to our communities to visit.

[00:14:29] So I think we have spent a lot of time shooting ourselves in the foot and we have not taken a holistic approach to: What does this affect? And is it worth the cost for communities like Lowell and Sweet Home and the other communities up at the other reservoirs that been decimated over the past few years with this new approach.

[00:14:56] I think you guys know as well as we know that having a resource of water and with our dam systems is beneficial to all of us. And we have all this hydropower. I believe this is a lot more beneficial to the economy, the communities, and the push for green energy than taking a bunch of wind farms and sticking them outside the coast of Oregon.

[00:15:25] Jim Chapman: My name is Jim Chapman. I live on the banks of Lookout Point Reservoir, where I look out the window every morning and see the mess that this drawdown has made. It’s causing extreme mud in the river. I was just in Portland over the weekend—the Willamette clear up in Portland is as muddy as it is here. The City of Lowell is having trouble getting their water clean enough because of the brown mud in it. There are other people, I’m not sure how this fits in, but there are people on the other side of the lake whose wells are going dry because of this.

[00:15:57] And in terms of the electric power generation: It seems kind of silly to me to have a system here that provides relatively low-cost power and throw it away. The four dams they’re talking about on the Snake that they want to remove or stop the generation produce enough electricity for 900,000 homes. You are not going to replace that. We need the generation capacities of all the dams in the Willamette region.

[00:16:29] John Bussell: My name is John Bussell, I live here in Lebanon…We really should look at max potential energy we can create with our dams versus any alternatives. Solar: What could they actually produce at what cost? And then look at the prices vs. just shutting a simple dam down vs. what can the dam maximum output be and normal output throughout a year. That would be some neat information to see.

[00:17:03] And I’m all for the dams. They’re good. They’re green. And if we’ve got to drain them down, we need a different process that doesn’t fill our rivers full of silt and kills tens of thousands of fish off.

[00:17:18] And with the recent drawdowns of Green Peter, it has filled Foster and the South Santiam river full of mud. It’s affecting our water quality in Sweet Home, Lebanon and everything else downriver. If we keep doing this, this is going to go on for three years and I’m concerned about our water. What about those metals in it?

[00:17:45] Our river is mud brown from the Green Peter drawdown, Foster Lake is mud brown, and the entire South Santiam is mud brown. And Sweet Home and Lebanon is being extremely affected. All of our water is yellow. It’s not safe to drink, and people are testing it and going, ‘This is excessively off. This is not good.’ So we are having problems with these drawdowns because you’re contaminating the water source and you’re killing up tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of fish.

[00:18:22] There are also fish hatcheries that their water is contaminated, which could also be killing off their smelt, so they’re trying to filter it, and their hatchery water is literally muddy, silty water, which can easily kill them. So, you guys really should check on the hatcheries because that’s a giant problem.

[00:18:43] I know no one’s really talked about that, but look at the local Facebook pages, what the people are saying. That’ll give you guys a good idea of what the public really feels and also look into the Santiam Sound and Lebanon and Sweet Home Facebook pages. You would be depressed by what they’re dealing with.

[00:19:06] People are having chemical reactions to trying to have the water cleaned from the cities. Like, things are getting really bad around here. Some people’s wells are drying up. It’s sad.

[00:19:18] Troy Goldstrom: My name is Troy Goldstrom and I live in the Santiam Canyon below the Detroit dam, Big Cliff dam. If we’re going to push everything to go electric, why in the world will we even have a conversation about taking out hydroelectric power? It’s very efficient. It’s very clean. The river always flows. And so I’m just not sure why we’re even having a conversation about turning off the power that these dams can generate.

[00:19:44] John Q: Some speakers expressed concern about the ecosystem.

[00:19:47] Grace Brahler: My name is Grace Brahler. I’m the Wildlands Director with Cascadia Wildlands. We’re a nonprofit conservation organization. I’m based out of Eugene, Oregon, but we have over 12,000 members and supporters whose mission is to defend and restore the entire Cascadia bioregions, wild ecosystems. We envision vast old growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon and wolves howling in the backcountry, a stable climate and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

[00:20:14] We support the deauthorization of hydropower production at the 13 federally-owned dams in the Willamette River watershed for the wide array of benefits it would bring to the Willamette River. Salmon, steelhead species that are currently on the brink of extinction and the communities that rely on them, including tribal communities who have fished the Willamette for thousands of years, removing the constraints tied to hydropower production will significantly increase the number of fish that are able to migrate to the ocean and back improve downstream water quality to reduce fish kills and support the life cycle needs of fish, create more natural flows to aid fish migration and improve spawning success, reduce the cost of operating the dams, reduce the cost of power producers and consumers.

[00:20:56] We have the ability to meet energy needs through power protection at much larger systems like that on the Columbia, but also, and most importantly, through increased efficiency, conservation and community power projects. But to put it most simply, the math no longer pencils out at the Willamette dams and we have the opportunity to make a change for the better to secure a more climate-resilient future.

[00:21:17] Dave Gillaspy: I live downstream of several of the dams in question and I recreate at several of the reservoirs in question. And I enjoy them and I love the planet and I love the people around them that they support. I also understand that we’ve learned a lot since these dams were built and a lot of them are exiting their useful service life and they’re becoming much more expensive to maintain and they contribute very little to our total overall energy picture here in the Willamette Valley.

[00:21:52] And I very much encourage everyone to deauthorize the use of hydroelectric power in the entire Willamette Valley system. These dams, not only are they expensive to maintain, but they’re also catastrophic for several elements of our ecosystem.

[00:22:11] And if we would just draw them down, at least a little bit, and not have the burden of being required to generate hydroelectric power, we can make room for a lot more species while still having excellent recreational activities and really respect the salmon and the orcas, make electricity more affordable for everyone, increase water quality. There’s just a lot of great things that we can do by deauthorizing hydroelectric power.

[00:22:41] Drew Simrin: Hi, my name is Drew Simrin and I live in Eugene, next to the Willamette River. I support that Congress should deauthorize hydroelectric power generation on the Willamette Valley dam system because our salmon and orcas need every individual to survive and the Army Corps of Engineers needs to do more to save Endangered Species Act-protected salmon and orcas. So I support the deep drawdowns as needed and deauthorization of hydroelectric power.

[00:23:18] Kristin Owen Ray: Hey, My name is Kristin Owen Ray. I’m just a private citizen and landowner in the Sweet Home area. And I just wanted to take a second to encourage the Corps to really move forward with this process. It’s been like a long time coming and y’all have really been dragging your feet about complying with the Endangered Species Act and extinction is forever.

[00:23:40] The amount of damage that’s been done in the meantime waiting for this court injunction to go into place is irreversible. And I would love to see some science-based solutions moving forward. Ideally, I would love to see the deauthorization happen as quickly as possible. And then, we can move from there to see what else can be done to mitigate the impact of the dams on the salmon population.

[00:24:03] But I really thank you all for taking the time to listen to the public on this. And I hope that you take all of our comments into consideration.

[00:24:10] Lauren Zatkos: Hi, yeah, my name is Lauren Zatkos, and I’m not a hydroelectric engineer. I don’t specialize in anything that has to do with dams, but I am an aquatic and fishery scientist, and I’ve been trying to read up on how hydroelectric affects salmonids, and as I understand it, it’s not so much negative effects to the migrating adult salmon that are coming in that everyone’s very used to seeing at the water surface.

[00:24:38] It has more to do with negative effects of juveniles trying to swim down from their natal streams through these reservoirs, and then down into the main stem Willamette and out to the ocean. So those turbines, the electric hydroelectricity produced in the dams, is really what is negatively affecting these fish.

[00:24:57] And I also understand that trying to deauthorize these hydroelectric turbines does not mean that these dams are necessarily going to come down. I don’t think that’s a question at all. So I think it’s really important, especially since there’s so little electricity produced throughout the entire Willamette Valley, which is huge and these dams block between 70-100% of spawning habitat for these salmon.

[00:25:23] I think it’s really important that we balance our need for electricity and there’s a lot of hydroelectricity produced throughout the Pacific Northwest and other river systems. I think it’s really important since the Willamette system is so big that we highly consider decommissioning these electricity turbines to help these fish continue to survive in the river system here.

[00:25:49] Liz Hamilton: This is Liz Hamilton with Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, and I am commenting on behalf of the deauthorization for hydro purposes. In particular, it is well known and documented in science, the benefits of reservoir drawdown for the species, not only in temperature reductions, but in speeding up of water travel time, which is one of the key indicators for smolt to adult returns.

[00:26:14] So based on those, we support that. I would like to recommend a couple things for the study. You’re looking at the cost to recreation, but are you looking at the benefits of increased salmon returns to the economy to those basins there? Salmon fishing is terribly important to these basins.

[00:26:35] It’s important to the tribes. It’s important to the sport fishing industry. It’s important to the orca that were mentioned earlier. NOAA has images of Southern Resident (killer whales) doing circles off the mouth of the Columbia River when the spring Chinook are staged to return. So it is important to that as well. The other question I have is whether or not deauthorization affects other purposes of the dams, so again, we’re in full support of making drawdowns work better for our salmon and steelhead. And I think when you compare the costs of the authorization to the benefits of increased recreation and some of the other costs of hydro mitigation, you’ll find this to be a real bargain.

[00:27:24] Margaret Townsend: My name is Margaret Townsend. I’m a freshwater species attorney and senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. And I’m commenting today on behalf of the salmon and steelhead that once returned to the Willamette River, which nearly 500,000 Chinook salmon and steelhead once returned to the upper Willamette River basin.

[00:27:44] And today populations are less than one percent of the historic abundance and they’re nearing extinction. With the authorization of the Willamette Valley System in 1938, the effects of flood control and hydropower operations and the resulting loss of habitat have driven steep declines of these fish populations in the Willamette Basin.

[00:28:05] The 13 federally-owned dams block nearly 75% of historic spawning habitats and degrade downstream water quality and flows. The collective pressures contributed to the listing of the Upper Willamette River spring Chinook salmon, and steelhead under the Federal Endangered Species Act in 1999. And a Southern Resident killer whale, which is also a federally-threatened species, has been pushed closer to extinction as the orca’s primary prey, Chinook salmon, have also declined.

[00:28:33] The Army Corps’ operation of these dams is a major factor preventing the recovery of Oregon’s iconic salmon and steelhead. The Corps must fulfill its mandatory duties under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that the Willamette Valley System does not further jeopardize these species. The Corps has put forth a $1.9 billion plan to save salmon stuck behind Willamette system dams, which includes building a powerful football field-sized floating vacuum to suck up tiny young salmon, flush them into massive storage tanks, load them onto trucks, drive them downstream, and dump them back into the water.

[00:29:09] This floating fish vacuum is as risky and expensive an experiment as it could ever be. It has not been proven to be effective at protecting young salmon and steelhead on their journey to the ocean. In fact, it will only prolong their decline to extinction. There is a much simpler way to protect salmon: Open the dam gates and let the fish ride the current as they would a wild river.

[00:29:32] Because very little power is produced at these dams, deauthorizing hydropower for Willamette System dams would protect these threatened fish and improve water quality for all of us, while also reducing the costs of dam operation and power for ratepayers. For these reasons, the Center for Biological Diversity urges the Army Corps to take all necessary actions to eliminate hydropower production from the Willamette Basin and allow the dams to be managed to prioritize our native fish and their abundance.

[00:30:00] Santiam Sound: My name is Santiam Sound. I’m a citizen here in Sweet Home, Oregon. If you can see the video, that’s the water lowered at Green Peter, Quartzville Reservoir. There ain’t no fish out there surviving right now.

[00:30:13] What’s really dam sad is (excuse me), what’s really fishy about the situation, the water in Sweet Home to Lebanon, Albany has been tainted and tampered. People are concerned in the area about their water, every water coming through their faucets. Exactly like that coming out and there ain’t no fish surviving in there.

[00:30:29] There was thousands upon thousands of dying fish—kokanee, all different types of fish coming up out of there. Even the sturgeon down in there can’t survive in that water. Salamanders thrive. I’m coming down here populating in this water. So to all the environments, I’m a fellow Indigenous tribal member. We got pushed off our reservations and never let back on. How do we come here and decide to treat this like we’re not all one? We can’t do one thing for one set of fish and expect all the fish to survive and all that to happen. Life has to adapt in certain ways, and we got to adapt together. So, for the judge and for the environmentalists that voted upon this, please come to Quartzville, get up to the dam.

[00:31:05] Check out, go to the water plant and see what this has caused. And if you can, please everybody, get involved and we’ve got to do something about this. I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert. I’m just a concerned citizen speaking for the public in the sense of our concerns for the water safety, not just for the people, but for the wildlife and so on.

[00:31:23] So thank you for your time. Let’s protect the water. Water is sacred. Water is love. Water is life and water knows everything. So let’s treat the water right. Let’s treat our wildlife right. They deserve it the most. Let’s fix the water situation. It’s not right.

[00:31:36] Sarah Schmigelsky: My name is Sarah Schmigelsky. I live in Eugene, Oregon. I am a seasonal employee with the Forest Service, but I’m representing myself as a private citizen. I have been a passionate natural resource advocate. I do hydro work as well as fish work and got to spend time on the John Day River and see the salmon runs that happen on an undammed river.

[00:31:57] So I really support the deauthorization of hydroelectric. Your sheet that shows the power from the Willamette dams represents a really good understanding that these dams only really produce less than 4% of our power and power less than 138,000 homes.

[00:32:16] Fighting for the Endangered Species Act and these keystone species like the orcas is really important. I do understand the water quality issues. I’ve noticed the flooding and the mudding on the Willamette here in town. But as we work through these challenges, I think there are really great opportunities to improve water quality and all of our ecosystems throughout the Willamette basin by deauthorizing hydro.

[00:32:40] Susie Whitmore: This is near and dear to my heart, because when I was in college in Idaho 10 years ago, we went through this whole entire debate about eliminating hydroelectric.

[00:32:51] The information that was provided about 4% of electric being provided by dams is incorrect and misinformation. It’s actually widely debated apparently on search engines as to how much hydroelectric contributes.

[00:33:09] My main concern here is, is that I believe that this deep drawdown is a precursor to removing our dams and devastating our communities.

[00:33:21] There would be other platforms that they could draw power off of if they no longer use the dams for hydroelectric, but as far as I know from studying into wind power and other things, there are no other viable solutions that would replace that amount of power that those generate, and so that is my main concern for what’s going to be the outcome. And with our society moving towards electric cars and people are concerned with not having gasoline-powered cars, how is that going to affect that industry? And also, I’m concerned that there’s going to be more rolling blackouts in our area.

[00:34:02] John Q: For those who see deauthorization as a step towards dam removal to help salmon populations, Joe LaFleur suggested taking a look at the big picture, and perhaps running a fairly inexpensive test.

[00:34:13] Joe LaFleur: My name is Joe LaFleur and I am a geologist that grew up on the banks of the lower McKenzie River. Our family has lived here for 52 years and we had beautiful salmon runs here on the lower McKenzie after all the dams were put in. We had splendid spawning beds down here, because we have a lot of large, shallow gravel bars, and what I saw transpire was, as I said, we had beautiful runs, beautiful spawning beds, and we would wade out amongst these spawning salmon and fish for trout, and we could watch these backs of these salmon just from our yard.

[00:34:58] I witnessed these beautiful salmon runs and these beautiful spawning beds up until 1969, and then I was sent off to Vietnam. And when I came back from Vietnam in early 1970, the run was slow in showing up, but I had to go off to graduate school at the University of Colorado. And when I came back from the University of Colorado in 1972, all our salmon runs were gone.

[00:35:25] And I asked my dad what happened to our salmon runs, and he told me that the researchers had tagged our salmon and found out that they go down the river and then out to sea, and then they swim up to Alaska, and they spend five years off the shores of the Aleutian Islands, and then they form a school and come back here to the same gravel beds where they were hatched.

[00:35:51] And in 1970, the Japanese began using 40- to 50-mile-long driftnets. Fifty-mile-long driftnets off the Aleutian Islands, and they obviously caught our schools. And I went and looked that up on the internet and found out that my dad was absolutely right. 1970 was the year… And the length of the fish nets were 40 and 50 miles long, and in science, when you see a coincidence like that, the disappearance of the salmon, at the same time these huge draft nets were being used, that’s quite evident of a cause and effect relationship. And the fact that we had all of these spawning beds downstream, it negates the ‘Blame the dam’ hypotheses, because we are below all the dams.

[00:36:38] And so I cannot blame the dams for loss of salmon and these expensive modifications to the dams and this expensive proposal to suction fish around the dam. I’m skeptical that these are really going to solve the problem of the commercial fishing.

[00:36:55] A more effective way of testing whether or not salmon can survive the commercial fishing would be to revigorate these lower spawning beds on the lower rivers. You could plant these with fry out of the hatcheries—or even better, stock them with fertilized eggs and actually run the experiment as to whether or not the salmon can make this 3,000-mile return trip. I mean, it’s 1,500 miles of commercial fishing they have to try to evade to get back to the river they came from.

[00:37:30] And it would be so much more of a frugal and hopeful test of the system to reinvigorate these spawning beds on the lower river than it is these expensive proposals, like the suction thing or modifying the dams.

[00:37:49] And I have been frustrated in trying to point out to people that this theory of ‘Blame the dams’ ignores these very important factors, the one being that we had all these splendid spawning beds downstream, and the other that we had splendid runs down here after the dams were all in place.

[00:38:11] John Q: From the Army Corps of Engineers listening sessions, on the potential deauthorization of hydroelectric in the Willamette Valley.

Whole Community News

You are free to share and adapt these stories under the Creative Commons license Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Whole Community News

FREE
VIEW