Early this month, a federal judge forced discussion of a radical step to save endangered salmon: taking out four somewhat large hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington State.
These four dams include Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite Dams. They are fairly old dams and were not optimized for salmon survival. They were built primarily for navigation of barge and various river traffic, for low-carbon power, and to lesser degrees for flood control and irrigation.
And despite millions of dollars spent on fish passage improvements, adult salmon still die in the reservoirs behind the dams, especially as the water can get quite warm sitting there during the summer. In addition, the Snake River is the gateway to thousands of square miles of pristine, high-elevation habitat in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, essential for salmon survival in a warming climate.
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