Endangered Earth
Chinook salmon vanish without a trace
Photo Courtesy of Klamath Restoration Council

International Herald Tribune
By Felicity Barringer
Published: March 17, 2008

SACRAMENTO: Where did they go?

The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.

Whatever the cause, there was widespread agreement among those attending a five-day meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council here last week that the regional $150 million fishery, which usually opens for the four-month season on May 1, is almost certain to remain closed this year from northern Oregon to the Mexican border. A final decision on salmon fishing in the area is expected next month.

As a result, Chinook, or king salmon, the most prized species of Pacific wild salmon, will be hard to come by until the Alaskan season opens in July. Even then, wild Chinook are likely to be very expensive in markets and restaurants nationwide.

"It's unprecedented that this fishery is in this kind of shape," said Donald McIsaac, executive director of the council, which is organized under the auspices of the Commerce Department.

Source Article and rest of story... International Herald Tribune

Bringing the Elwha River back to life

By Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times staff reporter

Coho carcasses have been planted in the upper reaches of the Elwha River to stimulate the local food chain.

Almost 100 years ago the Elwha River on the northern Olympic Coast had wild chinook salmon topping 100 pounds.

Then came the modern industrial era, and in 1913 this once pristine river that hosted all five salmon species was blocked by the first of two hydroelectric dams, leaving no path for fish migration to the upper 38 miles of mainstem and more than 30 miles of tributary habitat.

Along with the monster kings, other salmon populations above the Elwha dams have long since vanished, but a minuscule salmon run still knocks on the base of the lower dam each year.

State Fish and Wildlife biologists calculate that fewer than 5,000 wild fish return each year, which is 1.3 percent of its historic level.

As part of the Elwha River habitat restoration plan, the Lower Elwha Klallam tribal staff placed more than 600 frozen, spawned-out coho in the upper river back in January. The carcasses came from the 2006-07 returns to the tribe's hatchery.

Green mesh bags, holding two coho carcasses each, were staked into streambeds above one of the river's two fish-blocking dams. The bags will be removed once the fish decompose.

"We are looking at how it affects the freshwater food web, and is it stimulating algae growth and creating food for invertebrates," said Sarah Morley, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric research ecologist in Seattle who developed the project. "It [salmon carcass placement] is a new approach to restoration that has been overlooked in the past, and this subsidizes nutrients that is lacking from the system."

These spawned-out carcasses are a major contributor to the river's food chain web, including fish and other wildlife critters and aquatic bugs. They also generate nutrients like nitrates, carbon and phosphorus in the river.

"In the Elwha salmon haven't been in the upper river for almost 100 years, and the river is relatively infertile, so this is an important start to see how the river responds," said Mike McHenry, a tribal habitat program manager. "The study will give us an idea on how the whole aquatic ecosystem works with this sort of stimulation."

Fisheries officials will investigate the benefits of these carcasses to the river environment before dams are removed after 2010.

This type of placement of salmon carcasses in other Puget Sound rivers and creeks has played an important role in enhancing watersheds and restoration of salmon populations.

The 108-foot Elwha Dam and 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam were built to provide hydroelectric power to Port Angeles. The dams didn't have fish ladders, preventing salmon from migrating upriver to spawn.

The dams are owned by the federal government, and Olympic National Park is the leader in removing them. The total cost of the project is estimated at $308 million.


Bring the Salmon Home: Klamath Dams

Average number of adult wild salmon returning to the Klamath River Each Year: 880,000
Average number currently returning: Way below 100,000
Opportunities to remove dams: 1 every 50 years

Klamath Dams Have to Go for the Klamath Salmon:
The Klamath dams are currently up for Re-licensing by Pacific Power, an energy company from Portland, Oregon. This process occurs once every 50 years. These dams have outlived their usefulness. They block 350 miles of salmon habitat and cause toxic conditions in the Klamath River, while little power is produced. Klamath native and non-native people are working within the FERC process to Bring the Salmon Home, to the upper Klamath basin.

Dams Hurt Communities and Fish
Chinook SalmonThe people of the Klamath River remember when the salmon fed four tribes and supported thriving coastal fishing communities. River people are still very dependent on clean water and fish. Currently all species of Salmon and many of the other fish species in the Klamath are experiencing record lows. Furthermore, the Klamath reservoirs had the worst toxic algae reported in the west coast for 2005, and yearly fish kills plague the Klamath River.

Spring Chinook and Dams
The Spring Chinook Salmon, the main salmon run that used the upper basin once numbered at over hundreds of thousands of salmon a year, and helped to feed four large tribes. Last year numbers on the Salmon River, the main Springer stronghold, were less then 100.

Dams Create Toxic Algae
The dams are creating toxic algae (see toxic algae page) within the reservoirs that are over 100 times what the World Health Organization calls a moderate health risk. Furthermore, the dams create warm toxic water that goes directly into the Klamath River, which could hurt both fish and humans.

Pacific Power is Not Green
In fact Pacific Power’s green image is a farce. Pacific Power says they are “green” and have a “Blue Sky’s” option. However really Pacific Power’s wind resources are only 0.2% of their total energy resource. This represents 123 megawatts of power. Klamath dams produce only 161 megawatts of power. This power could be replaced with only a small amount of green power, which would give some weight to Pacific Power’s claims of being a green company.

For more information about the Klamath Dams see:
Klamath Restoration Council

Background information for the Klamath River DAM REMOVAL Campaign

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