Making Amends with Nature

by Howard Smallowitz, Editor; Water Rights, P.O. Box 8496, Austin, TX 78713-8496,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1989, Vol. 59, Issue 5, Pg. 56-59

Document Type: Feature article


The U.S. salmon population has been decimated in the last half-century, principally because of hydropower. In the nation's focus on alternate and clean energy sources, fish populations were the losers. In the Pacific Northwest's Columbia River basin, only 15% of salmon and steelhead trout run now, compared to counts of a century ago. Of that loss, 75% is attributed to hydropower dams. Congress created the Pacific Northwest Planning Council to redress those losses, mainly through the construction of fish bypasses and other dam retrofitting. The loss of fish has great economic impact in that region of the country. In some parts of the basin, water has been diverted for agricultural purposes as well as for power. So there are many economic and institutional parties to the problem. Measures now being taken by the new Council are outlined as are actions taken by several federal agencies. Progress as well as reasons for delays are described. The remediation measures are described, as are the economic implications. The Bonneville Power Administration, for example, claims it is foregoing $55 million a year in power revenues to save the salmon.

Subject Headings: Hydro power | Fish management | Economic factors | Basins | Dams | Rivers and streams | Steel | Infrastructure construction | Pacific Northwest | United States

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