Dams

Wendy / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from an environmental think tank ranks Idaho among the states with a low ecological footprint. The study from the Global Footprint Network ranked states against one other on a number of green measures. Idaho received the top ranking for electricity generated from renewable energy. Washington and Oregon come in second and third, respectively.

A close look shows the renewable source that earned Idaho its high ranking is hydropower, with wind and biomass taking up smaller shares.

Frankie Barnhill

After it became clear that a power outage and failed alarm system at the Barber Dam caused the Boise River to flow nearly dry for eight hours on February 4, Marie Callaway Kellner of the Idaho Conservation League began asking for action.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

About 100 people showed up at a meeting Wednesday night to hear what caused an east Boise dam to malfunction in February, and what steps are being taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Part of the Boise River was reduced to nearly a trickle for about eight hours overnight on February 4 when a power grid fluctuation caused the Barber Dam to shut down. Ada County owns the dam, but leases the hydroelectric plant to Enel Green Power.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The public will have the chance to talk with elected officials about a power outage that caused the Boise River to dry up earlier this year. The Ada County Commission is holding a meeting on May 27 to discuss the accidental dewatering.

Suzba / Flickr Creative Commons

After a power plant's alert system failed causing Wednesday's dramatic drop in the Boise River flow, Idaho Fish and Game biologists are concerned about potential impacts to wildlife. The river went from flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 81 cfs in a matter of hours.

Barber Dam's power was restored early Wednesday morning, constricting the flow of water for nearly eight hours.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

This story was updated at 4:55 p.m.

You might have noticed the Boise River was lower than normal Wednesday morning. At midnight, the gauge at Boise's Glenwood Bridge showed the river was flowing at 290 cubic feet per second (cfs). At 10:45 a.m., the river had dropped to just 81 cfs. 

Ryan Hedrick is a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that controls the flow of water to the river at Lucky Peak. He says the significant drop this morning was due to a problem at a Boise hydroelectric plant in the middle of the night.

Idaho Transportation Department

 Idaho water managers this week filed an application for a preliminary permit with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. The state's Water Resource Board continues to study the feasibility of building a new dam on the Weiser River. 

The Galloway Dam Site would include a 40-60 megawatt hydropower plant.  The project would be located 13.5 miles upstream of the confluence of the Weiser and Snake rivers.

columbia river
Shawn Kinkade / Flickr

The Army Corps of Engineers this spring will begin killing birds at some Snake and Columbia river dams to help protect juvenile salmon and steelhead.

The agency unveiled a plan Thursday that will allow as many as 1,200 California gulls, 650 ring-billed gulls and 150 double-crested cormorants to be killed.

The Lewiston Tribune says the action will occur at McNary Dam on the Columbia River and Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the Snake River.

Chinook Salmon, fish
Pacific Northwest National Lab / Flickr Creative Commons

The federal government's management plan for protecting salmon and steelhead killed by federal dams in the Columbia River basin differs little from its earlier version and continues to rely heavily on habitat improvement. 

WaterArchives / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter aims to build billions of dollars in new or expanded Idaho dams, to capture more water in his state's drought-stricken southern desert for crops, cities and flushing endangered salmon to the sea.

He's asking lawmakers to give him $15 million down payment for, among other things, studying whether a new era of dam building make sense, given somebody will have to pay for it.

One project he's pushing, a new Weiser River dam, could be used for everything from flood control to electricity.

Frank Kovalchek / Flickr Creative Commons

If you were to go to the banks of the Snake River downstream of Milner Dam near Burley, you wouldn’t see much more than a trickle of water. That’s because the federal Bureau of Reclamation shut off the river flow on June 4.

For at least 25 miles, there isn’t enough water for a kayaker to paddle through. Idaho Power runs the hydroelectric plant at the dam, and says the zero flow will impact its operations through late July.  

Advocates For Klamath Dams Removal Rally In Portland

May 31, 2013

Groups from Southern Oregon and Northern California rallied outside Senator Ron Wyden’s office in Portland Thursday.

They came to show support for a bill proposing a restoration project along the Klamath River. It would spend $800 million to restore fish habitat and remove four dams.

Toni Peters is a member of the Yurok Tribe, which supports the project.  “We’re here protesting the dams and the water rights and the fish. Keep our rivers clean for our kids, younger generations, the elders. Keep the river alive. Keep people healthy and safe.”

Feds Recommend Removing Four Dams on the Klamath River

Apr 5, 2013

The Interior Department today recommended removing four dams on the Klamath River by the year 2020. The dam removal is proposed as part of a settlement to end the water wars in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

The feds have released a final environmental impact statement on the Klamath Dam removal proposal. And it boils down to this. Without the dams, salmon and steelhead can swim freely upstream to 420 miles of new habitat.

An agreement to remove four dams on the Klamath River has suffered a political and symbolic setback. Klamath County has voted to pull out of the agreement.

The vote was unanimous. But it’s not clear how Klamath County plans to withdraw from the dam removal deal.

The other signatories say the deal is a binding contract that the county can’t get out of it for at least two more years.

Department of the Interior

A major water rights agreement in the Klamath Basin is set to expire in December 31st. Farmers, tribes, and power company PacifiCorp are getting behind an extension.

The Klamath restoration deal was inked two years ago, with a lot of celebration, and even a cameo from then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I can see already that the salmon fish is screaming I’ll be back,” he said at the time.

The deal settled decades of lawsuits over water rights in the basin on the Oregon- California border.

Sea Lions At Bonneville Dam Kill Estimated 2,500 Sturgeon

Oct 16, 2012
Travis S. / Flickr

Biologists say the sea lions that scoop up fish at the foot of Bonneville dam on the Columbia river have killed more sturgeon this year than salmon.

Two different species of sea lions like to feast at Bonneville.  California sea lions only eat salmon.  But Stellar sea lions arrive earlier in the year. While they wait for the spring salmon run to start, they snack on sturgeon.

Biologists with the Army Corps of Engineers estimate that this year, the Stellar sea lions ate about 2,500 sturgeon.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

It's a question all of us face sooner or later: whether to spend a good chunk of money to protect against a catastrophe that has a very low chance of occurring. A workshop that just wrapped up in Corvallis, Oregon considered that dilemma in the context of Northwest dams and a magnitude 9 earthquake.

Judge Redden Talks Salmon Case

Apr 25, 2012
Aaron Kunz / Earthfix

A federal judge who has ruled for more than a decade on how to save Columbia and Snake River salmon says four dams on the Lower Snake River should be torn down.

CRITFC / Northwest News Network

A coalition of tribal groups says sea lions are eating far more salmon along the Columbia River than previously thought. The claim comes in a legal fight over whether wildlife officials should be killing some of the hungry sea lions.

A federal judge has authorized wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington to kill as many as 30 California sea lions each year near the Bonneville Dam. Four have been killed so far this spring. A conservation group has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the killings.